Duke Southard

Author, Educator, Lecturer

More On Investigative Reporting

Here is an interesting and vexing dilemma for the beginner in the field of investigative reporting. What does one do when there is a unequivocal divide over what should be clear fact? For example, in my early research and interviews for Murder in a Small Town: The Tragic Death of Stacey Burns, I was presented with this fact: The police and other authorities were not to provide the press (and especially not a novice writer of true crime) any information which could compromise the investigation. That is a fact, stated in public and to me personally on a number of occasions. However, that fact seems to me to be compromised in its own right when I’m told that 20/20 television journalists supplied quite specific information about the murder to people they interviewed.

Once again, we return to the old versions of truth issue. As a fledgling investigative reporter, I’d like to hear how this should be handled, other then the way I am doing it; that is, telling both sides and allowing the reader to make the decision as to which truth they would like to believe.

Now, here is another thorny issue for this writer and wannabe investigative reporter: what if I’ve been provided with “facts” that only the investigators (and the murderer) would or should know?  I don’t know if these “facts” are indeed the truth. I’d like to ask the authorities if my “facts” have any validity. I would think they might be curious about these “facts” and would initiate the contact themselves but that seems unlikely to happen. However, until is does happen, everyone is free to wonder what these so-called facts are. Of course, I can’t share them because my investigation is still ongoing. (Sound familiar?)


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I'm Duke Southard, author, educator, and lecturer.

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