WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Digging Deeper to Find the News, Part 2

Feb 6, 2018

The Shop Talk panelists continue their discussion about enterprise and investigative journalism.   

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she asked students in one of her broadcasting classes if they would be willing to go undercover to obtain information for a story.  About half the students said they would be willing to do that at a grocery store. But none of them would misrepresent themselves to report on a business that required specialized skills or certifications, such as a nursing home.

Panelist Will Buss said there is no easy answer.  He said reporters want to avoid using deception but sometimes that’s the only way to obtain information that serves the public good.  He said the same general principle applies to the use of anonymous sources -- Buss said papers he’s worked for didn’t want reporters to rely on anonymous sources but certain exceptions were allowed. 

Panelist Rich Egger said he would prefer to talk to a source working at a business instead of going undercover, though that’s not always possible.  He also said health department inspections could reveal some information about private businesses but might not provide details about the daily practices.

Egger lauded WBEZ for its investigation of Legionnaire’s disease outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, which is a state-run facility.  The investigation relied on interviews and public documents.

Crighton also praised the investigation, and suggested small market TV stations could attract larger audiences if they devoted a reporter or two to enterprise journalism.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.