In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers are shrinking, folding up or being cut loose by their parent companies. Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol—she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.
Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the US like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.
And I’m not the only one to notice. “We are in a golden age of investigative journalism,” says Sheila Coronel. And she should know. Now the academic dean at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Coronel was the director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, whose coverage of the real estate holdings of former President Joseph Estrada—including identical houses built for his mistresses—contributed to his removal from office in 2001.
These are, to take another example, the halcyon days for watchdog journalism in Brazil. Last October, I went to a conference of investigative journalists there organized by the Global Journalism Investigative Network. There were 1,350 attendees. In July, I was back for another conference, this time organized by the Association of Brazilian Investigative Journalists and attended by close to 450 reporters. Thanks in part to Brazil’s Freedom of Information Act and the “open budget” movement that seeks to shed light on the government’s finances (and let people have a say in how their tax dollars are spent), journalists there have been busy exposing widespread corruption in local government as well as a cash-for-votes scheme that resulted in the arrest of nine senior politicians.