Investigative reporting needs improvement on TV news

Even those in charge of local TV newscasts say that their record on investigative reporting is pretty weak. A TVNewsCheck survey found that just a small percentage of news directors feel local TV news does a good or better job of digging deep to uncover investigative stories.

…an overwhelming majority (81.5%) feel that they do an “average” or “poor” job at investigative journalism. By almost the same percentage (81.2), they concede that criticism of stations’ investigative and enterprise reporting is “fair.”

And the state of broadcast investigative reporting may not improve anytime soon, they say. Only 38.5% expect to see more of it in the next three-to-five years. A majority (60.7%) believes the level will stay about the same (36.3%) or decline (24.4%).

One way to raise the bar on investigative reporting is to make a personal commitment to digging deeper yourself.

Nancy Amons is an investigative reporter for WSMV in Nashville.  She says you can produce investigative stories by committing just 10 minutes a day to the process.

In this handout posted by the Poynter’s Al Tompkins, she shares her process for what she calls “seeding and planting” investigative work.


Keys for successful seeding and planting:

  • Set aside time every day
  • Don’t promise the story to the desk until it’s far along
  • Get a photojournalist to buy into the project
  • Enlist the help of graphics dept
  • Warn the desk early if your story will run longer than normal length
  • Give promotions a heads-up

The handout is also packed with investigative ideas that would work in almost any market.  So take a look and commit to making TV news better at investigative reporting.