Strengthening Investigative Journalism with Information and Communication
In Colombia, investigative journalism faces many obstacles, such as violence in small cities, routine danger and threats to journalists, economically entrenched interests of communication media, the control of some politicians over journalists and media outlets, and the lack of knowledge about technologies and investigative techniques by journalists. Despite these difficulties, many journalists in Bogotá and Colombian regions have produced great investigative works on diverse topics such as political, environmental and social matters. However, very few journalists use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to find, process, and analyse data. One reason for this is because the use of these technologies is only now being included in the academic programmes of some universities. The majority of working journalists have not been trained in the application of ICTs; additionally the use of these technologies is very poorly spread through journalists. Another important factor that inhibits ICT applications in investigative journalism is the fact that journalists are not accustomed to big databases to gather information about their regions based on public records, which can be excellent sources for their investigations and become important tools for controlling the way services and resources are being administrated in the municipalities. Consejo de Redacción (CdR) has launchd an initiative to first sensitize participating Colombian journalists to the possibilities of ICT applications by presenting them selected cases of investigations made by national and international journalists who used ICTs in their works. The project will then train participants to find and research the large amount of information they can gather through the Internet, the searching techniques that can be used in an investigation, the facilities the web offers to access international databases, the usefulness of having their own databases and the modern software that helps cross-reference information. Finally, the project will generate a space for internal discussion that lets participants analyze how similar works could be done in Colombia, propose topics to be reported by exploring those techniques and advice them in the process to transform the information they obtain into a database that will be useful for their investigations.