Bad Practice and Good Practice
In the movies The Bourne Ultimatum and Defence of the Realm, the investigative reporter is killed. This can happen in reality too, as with Veronica Guerin, Anna Politkovskaya, and Daphne Caruana Galizia. But the brutal truth is that death marks a journalistic failure. Journalists can be reckless or just over-enthusiastic. Such “target journalism” at the Times led to painful revenge exacted by businessman Michael Ashcroft. Emotional over-involvement led BBC journalists to misidentify Lord McAlpine as a sex abuser with catastrophic consequences. To mitigate these dangers, the best investigators are cantankerous and imaginative, but also biddable and pedantic. They will often necessarily work in pairs or in permanent or ad hoc teams, as was done with Wikileaks. Less often, loners are also good at the task.
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