Investigative journalism : changing languages to get closer to the public

Photo : Farah Wael
Photo : Farah Wael

While breaking news flow overwhelms social media, investigative journalism renews its strategies to more effectively target the public. Traditional media must take up one essential challenge : to adapt its language and preserve its position as leading provider of quality information.

Investigative journalism is not dead. Although some would argue the golden age of “slow journalism”  is finished, a renaissance might be possible by producing stories in new ways. Three media outlets were present on Tuesday in the Hotel Brufani to share their reflections on this topic. Vice Italy, Sky TG24 and L’Espresso revealed their thoughts on the art of producing investigative pieces.

The public is no longer a contemplative consumer of information. Since the emergence of Internet, habits have changed : use of new technologies, fast interaction between people, and a heavy presence on the Internet have become the norm. From now on journalists have to give consideration to all these facts.

 Vice, investigative reports, and attracting a young audience

The launch of Vice Italy is a recent development, an investment made by Sky News and represented by the director of Sky TG24 Sara Varetto. Vice is a media agency and initially was an independent magazine founded in Canada in 1994. Currently it’s a production campaign, media and advertising agency, a magazine, business enterprise… A success story. The key : its modern approach that tries to be in phase with the main users of technologies : the youth. Vice self-defines itself in this way : “ Vice, the voice of a generation.” It’s characterized by a strong desire to show the the reality of modern life. Its strong connection to social media seems to be an advantage. “The first medium is the web, and not only for gossip “said Andrea Rasoli, founder of Vice Italia.

 For Sky News, this magazine offers the opportunity to reveal a new side of Italy to the Italian public and the world. And, at the same time, it’s a way to show extremities in the modern world and to take the opportunity to enter into a reality that’s not easy to explain. Vice’s reports are watched all over the world. For Italians, the broadcast is each Sunday at 11.00 PM, starting May 4th. Two reports will be broadcasted : ” Mortal elections “, produced by the American journalist Ryan Duffy,  and “The ritual of exorcism in Italy “, the local focus report made by an Italian journalist. The first one deals with the violence in the Philippines during the electoral campaign and the weapons traffic, built by the local population and used by child soldiers. In the second film, journalist Chiara Galeazzi follows an Italian exorcist and assists in a ritual with about 100 people. During their reports, both journalists interact directly with the camera, creating a close connection with viewers.

 Vice’s journalists combine entertainment topics and immersive techniques in their investigations. Dynamic sequences, strong presence and identification of the reporter, proximity with the interviewers, original points of view, and talking directly to young people. Interactive production is one of the possibilities to attract and convince them.

New possibilities with smaller tools

To communicate with a young audience, Sara Varetto also explained that smartphones are used in the production of information, even for most the important events. “A way to refine video shots and try other narratives contents”, said the director off Sky TG24. The power of the images is more essential than ever, while the accessibility is easier because journalists can take images without heavy material.

Strong content and great quality of filming are non-negotiables for the director of SKY TV24. She announced the organisation of talk shows and strong intentions to inform the public during the election. Using a smartphone, its currently easy to identify the needs of the public and which news interest them most. For journalism this is also a new perspective. Journalists can be informed more efficiently by the public witnesses who share their feelings and photos on the Web.

Web and print : when the first can save the second

Aside from television, some traditional print media have made the choice to adapt their presence to new means of communication. L’Espresso, represented by Bruno Manfellotto during the discussion, has decided to use both strategies : to be close to the people through stories and the Internet. This print magazine focused on investigative journalism is characterized by the specifity of the topics on the front page : social events, dramatic stories, crimes. Focus on facts that Italians have experienced, extreme situations. They investigate on the themes concerning the Italian public.

They decided to combine Internet and print in order to complement both types of media. According to Bruno Manfelloto, the attempt to integrate product for paper has to come through development on the Web and broadcasting of videos, audio, and photos. “Successful approach but not sufficient because of the quick evolution of trends and use by the public”, commented the editor of L’Espresso. The redaction has to step up and propose exclusive content for Internet users.

In the middle of May, a large part of the website will continue to offer free access, with only 20% as  paid content. With the global use of smartphones, they are looking for what the web news channel cannot offer yet. And they also want to share something immediately, without negotiation through the classic practice of the investigative journalism.

Manfelloto confirmed the willpower of his magazine to preserve the genre: “each person who is working for the print version is a corporate journalist.” And productions are always executed with a close approach.

Rigor and professionalism, not an option

Even if the narration is evolving, the work in the background stays the same. Vice’s journalists spend “three weeks to move in differents places and five days for editing”, Chiara Galeazzi said. A new language, yes, but ultimately a traditional realisation of the investigation.

How we use new technologies influences the expectations and habits of the public. With the market for the smartphone growing, investigative journalists have to be flexible and continue to keep their radar on the public’s thoughts and concerns.

By  Elodie Armand