An award-winning investigative reporter has said ‘contacts, contacts, contacts’ are still the key tool of the job – despite the advent of ‘data journalism.’
Jeanette Oldham, investigations editor of the Birmingham Mail, told the Journalism Skills Conference that while the internet helped as research tool, most of her story-gathering was down to “old-fashioned digging and talking to people,”
She said: “I’m going to sound like someone from the 1980s, but it’s about contacts, contacts, contacts.”
Jeanette, whose scoops have included the revelation that Birmingham council suppressed a report on child sexual exploitation 23 years ago, also said an understanding of company accounts would give journalism students “an edge” in future.
Jeanette, who won the specialist reporter of the year prize at this year’s Regional Press Awards, was taking part in a session looking at new tools for investigative journalism in the digital age alongside David Powles, head of Archant’s group-wide investigations unit.
David spoke of his work on the contaminated blood scandal and revealed that online ‘dwell time’ for the group’s investigative content was more than on normal stories.
The conference, at the BBC offices in Birmingham, also heard a series of tips from Paul Myers, head of the BBC investigative hub.
They included using the ‘wayback’ machine for what he termed “online time travel” – looking at defunct websites – and using AQL to find out what country mobile phones are operating out of.
Elsewhere at the conference, proposals to create an optional public relations module in the Diploma in Journalism exam provoked lively debate.
With ethics now a compulsory part of the NCTJ syllabus, some delegates questioned whether the ethics of PR and journalism were compatible.
Added Alun: “PR and journalism are not mutually exclusive positions for me.”
* You can follow our coverage of the conference live on Twitter with the hashtag #NCTJconf.