Nowadays, it became a commonplace practice among theoreticians of journalism to refer to the proper functioning of a ‘fourth estate’ as the crucial element of ensuring democratic society’s well-being. Some authors go even as far as implying that the concepts of journalism and democracy are essentially synonymous and that these concepts derive out of each rather. For example, according to Berry (2009, p. 76): ‘The function of the press and broadcast news media is to maintain democracy’. It is quite impossible to disagree with such a point of view. After all, only well-informed citizens may be in a position of taking practical advantage of their civil rights and freedoms. Nevertheless, it is namely people’s exposure to high-quality journalism, which can be considered beneficial, in the socio-political sense of this word (Beers 2006, p. 122). In its turn, high-quality journalism is being closely affiliated with the notions of informativeness, unbiasedness, objectiveness, and analytical news (Gunther 1992, p. 157). In our paper, we will aim to substantiate the validity of this thesis in regards to what we believe represent two examples of high-quality investigative journalism: the articles ‘Grub: Eating bugs to save the planet’ by Dana Goodyear (The New Yorker) and ‘Stolen children’ by Rory Callinan (Time Magazine).
The analysis of Goodyear’s article
In her article ‘Grub: Eating bugs to save the planet’, Goodyear tells readers the story of Florence Dunkel (an entomologist at Montana State University), who continues to apply a great effort while popularizing the idea that it is perfectly normal to eat insects. This story serves Goodyear as an investigative backdrop – after having discussed Dunkel’s ‘bug-eating’ practices at length, the author moves on to the second phase of her report, while bringing readers’ attention to the fact that the eventual switching to ‘bug-diet’, on their part, is being dialectically predetermined. The reason for this is simple – the problem with food shortage in the world will continue growing ever more acute, as time goes on. In the article’s concluding part, Goodyear comes up with a number of suggestions as to how people may go about dealing with their psychological anxieties, in regards to insects being consumed as food.
The reading of this particular article leaves very few doubts as to the high extent of Goodyear’s professional excellence because in it she had proven herself being completely aware of what accounts for high-quality investigative journalism. At the very beginning, Goodyear succeeded in catching readers’ initial attention by exposing them to the sight of Dunkel’s rather unconventional culinary practices: ‘Oh! I can smell the crickets now’… She took them out of the oven and started to pull off the ovipositors and the legs, which can stick in the throat” (2011, p. 38). In its turn, this points out to the author’s understanding of the fact that, for even analytical journalistic works to attract audiences, they must be emotionally intense, as the notion of emotional intensity is being synonymous with the notion of entertainment. (Woo & Meyer 2007, p. 55). And, providing people with entertainment has traditionally been considered one of the journalistic foremost agendas. The earlier suggestion refers to the utilization of pathos in journalistic works – by attuning articles’ informational content with the essence of audiences’ subconscious anxieties, journalists are able to substantially increase the power of these articles’ intellectual appeal (Cramerotti 2009, p. 28).
After having shown that the practical aspects of eating insects are not being quite as repulsive as they may initially appear, Goodyear proceeded with substantiating her stance on the discussed subject – this time adjusting her line of argumentation to be correlative with the concept of ‘appeal to logos’ (Poggi 2005, p. 312). That is, the author went about presenting readers with empirically obtained analytical data that support the article’s thesis that it is only a matter of time, before consuming insects for food will become a widely accepted practice even in Western countries. According to Goodyear, there is a number of fully objective preconditions for this to happen: compared to cattle, insects are five times more effective as converters of a feed into protein, there is no danger for people to contract diseases from eating insects, due to insects’ strongly defined genetic difference from humans, farming insects is humane, as they do not suffer from overcrowding, etc. Even a brief glance at these logically supported arguments, reveals their ‘non-partisanship’ – while coming up with them, the author had proven her perceptional unbiasedness. After all, even though people’s attitudes towards consuming insects as food may vary, the fact that the process of Earth becoming overpopulated will eventually present human populations with the challenge of finding an alternative source of protein simply cannot be effectively opposed. While being perfectly aware that Western readers will not necessarily welcome her advocacy of insect-based diet, Goodyear nevertheless had proven herself intellectually honest enough to promote this idea, as such that is being fully correlative with the realities of modern living. In its turn, this once again emphasizes the high value of her journalistic investigation, because one of the journalists’ foremost professional goals is to educate the public and to encourage people to seek the objective truth – whatever emotionally uncomfortable it might be (Phadke 2008, p. 174, Callahan 2003, p. 11). Regardless of whether, after having read Goodyear’s article, readers will be willing to stick to the author’s point of view or not, there can be few doubts as to the fact that by being exposed to this article, they will be able to expand their intellectual horizons, in regards to the discussed subject matter (Bala & Domatob 2007, p. 319).
While being perfectly aware of the controversial essence of the idea of switching to an insect-based diet, Goodyear strived to expose essentially imaginary subtleties of this controversy – hence, making it easier for the readers to accept the idea that there is nothing particularly abnormal about eating bugs. This is exactly the reason why, throughout the article’s entirety, the author never ceased substantiating the full soundness of her suggestions by highlighting Westerners’ repugnance to insects as being utterly irrational: “Most of the world eats bugs. Australian Aborigines like witchetty grubs… Tenelmo rnolitor is factory-farmed in China; in Venezuela, children roast tarantulas” (2011, p. 43). In its turn, this reveals the author’s awareness of an ‘appeal to ethos’ as one of the most effective journalistic techniques (McLaughlin 2005, p. 309). By having pointed out to the fact that the representatives of the world’s most non-Western cultures do not have objections against eating insects, Goodyear succeeded in revealing Westerners’ ill-hidden objections against turning insects into food as culturally biased and therefore, as such that has nothing to do with the notion of objectivity. Thus, just as it is the case being with the author’s utilization of appeals to pathos and logos, her appeals to ethos also appear highly educational, which in turn creates additional preconditions for ‘Grub: Eating bugs to save the planet’ to represent high journalistic value (King 2008, p. 167).
It is now being considered a well-established fact that, for an investigative journalistic piece to be considered particularly valuable, it has to contain a number of utilitarian insights on the subject under discussion (Weaver & McCombs 1980, p. 479). This is being the case with Goodyear’s article, as in it, the author does not solely go about outlining theoretical and emotional aspects of the food industry’s becoming ‘bug-friendly’, but also provide practical advice as to how individuals may proceed with getting rid of their deep-seated aversion to insects. Thus, the analysis of Goodyear’s investigative report does allow us to discuss it as such serves three classical journalistic functions, as defined by Applegate (1996, pp. 42-47): the function of information, the function of entertainment, and the function of persuasion. This itself can be thought of as the foremost indication of Goodyear articles strongly defined journalistic refinement.
The analysis of Callinan’s article
What has been said earlier, in regards to Goodyear’s, largely applies to Walkley’s nominated article ‘Stolen children’ by Rory Callinan, as well. In it, the author strived to expose all of the unsightly aspects of the practice of Australians adopting children from Third World countries. The article begins with Calliunan telling the story of Indian woman Fatima, whose daughter Zabeen has been kidnapped in broad daylight when she was two years old. After seven years, Zabeen surfaced in Australia, where an Australian couple has adopted her in full compliance with all the associated legal procedures. After having investigated this particular case, the author came to the conclusion that it may very well be the case that at least one-third of young-aged children, adopted by Australians from India, had in fact been kidnapped from their parents. Apparently, India’s adoption and police authorities are being corrupted to the extent that they provide legal cover to child kidnappers – as it appears from Callinan’s article, Zaeen’s adoption-related legal papers were perfectly legitimate. In its turn, this prompted the author to come up with the suggestion that the real reason why kidnapped children from Third World countries continue finding their way into Australia is that, Australian adoption agencies and government officials have no option but to cooperate with governmental officials from other countries where these children have been born. And, it often proves to be the case that the government officials from Third World are nothing but criminals themselves – pure and simple: “While Australian authorities often took months to vet prospective adoptive parents… they continued to deal with dubious Indian agencies that had repeatedly been associated with illegal practices, including child stealing” (2008).
Given the fact that in 2008, for this particular article Callinan was given the Walkley award, there can be few doubts as to the article’s high journalistic value. In our opinion, this value accounts for the following:
- ‘Stolen children’ is truly informative. After all, until its publishing in 2008, the majority of Australians remained utterly unaware of the fact that the substantial number of adopted children, which came to this country from abroad, have been stolen from their parents. Yet, even though people’s ignorance is often being referred to as ‘bliss’, it does under-power them, while addressing life’s challenges (Weaver & McCombs 1980, p. 486). Thus, it will not be much of an exaggeration, on our part, to suggest that by revealing child adoptions’ dirty underside, Callinan served Australian society a great deal of good. From now on, Australians will be prompted to act in a less gullible manner, while dealing with adoption agencies from Third World countries.
- Despite its investigative essence, Callinan’s article also has a function of entertainment to it. Apparently, while working on his article, the author never ceased being aware of readers’ subconscious strive to be exposed to just about any journalistic story’s highly emotional content as the ultimate instrument of becoming entertained. It goes without saying, of course, that the story of Fatima and Zabeen is being rather tragic. This, however, is exactly the reason why broader audiences of readers will find this kind of story especially appealing – by being provided with an opportunity to read about the sufferings of others, most people do get to feel better about themselves, whatever the improbable it might sound (Baum 2002, p. 91). Just as it is being the case with just about every intellectual product, the journalistic article is the subject to sale and the tool of securing advertisement-related revenues (Stuart 2010, p. 123, Baker 1992, p. 2104). Therefore, investigative journalists need to understand that the foremost indication of their professional adequacy is their popularity with the readers. No matter how well researched a particular investigative article might be, it will go unnoticed by the audience if its author has failed at taking advantage of his or her knowledge of what accounts for the workings of people’s subconsciousness. Obviously enough, this cannot be said about Callinan’s article, as in it author succeeded in providing a strongly defined emotional appeal to the article’s otherwise informative content.
- Callinan’s article is highly analytical. Before embarking on article’s writing, he author thoroughly studied the discussed subject matter and took the pain of traveling to India on numerous occasions, to trace Zabeen’s biological parents and to interview them. Given the fact that, as it appears from the article, the highly lucrative ‘business’ of kidnapping Indian children, supplying them with legal documents, and sending them abroad for ‘adoption’ is being provided with a governmental cover, it is needless to mention that, while proceeding with the journalistic investigation in India, Callinan was quite literally risking its life. The realization of this fact, however, did not prevent Callinan from continuing to investigate the matter, which in turn added even more value to his article as such that is being closely associated with the concept of journalistic integrity. As Bahuguna pointed out (2010, p. 6): ‘Practicing investigative journalism is about taking risks’. This partially explains why in 2008, Callinan was given a Walkley award for this particular article – by proving the sheer strength of his journalistic integrity, the author created objective preconditions for this to happen.
- ‘Stolen children’ contains contextual insights on what can be considered a solution to the problem of kidnapped children from Third World countries being ‘exported’ to Australia. As it is being shown by Callinan, only naïve people may believe in the legal legitimacy of adoption-allowing certificates from India – hence, the implicitly promoted idea that it is namely by growing ever-more vigilant, while dealing with governmental agencies from the Third World countries, that Australians would be able to ensure their personal well-being in abroad and also in Australia. n the light of what is being discussed in the article, such an implicitly articulated idea cannot be referred to as being completely deprived of a rationale. After all, if a particular governmental authority (such as the Queensland Department of Families, Youth and Community Care) fails at living up to the purpose of its existence, then the associative responsibilities are being automatically placed on citizens’ shoulders. At the same time, even though in his article Callinan strikes hard at India’s governmental corruption and the inefficiency of Australia’s adoption policies, he also exposes the rationale that predetermined the existence of such state of affairs– hence, proving the sheer extent of his analytical unbiasedness and objectivity. And, as we are being well aware, such objectivity is a must-feature of high-quality investigative reports (Manohar 2006, p. 3).
Even though that both earlier analyzed articles deal with qualitatively different subjects of journalistic investigation, there are good reasons to consider them as such that equally exemplify what investigative journalism is ought to be all about. After all, in their articles both: Callinan and Goodyear, succeeded in providing readers with factual information as to discussed topics, in outlining the whole scope of associated solution-related problematics, and in encouraging readers to adopt an interdisciplinary outlook on the actual significance of what has been argued. Just as is being the case with Callinan’s article, Goodyear’s article addresses the issue of undeniable socio-political importance. Both articles feature a fair amount of sarcasm, which makes the process of their reading for intelligent audiences especially enjoyable. And, both articles are being clearly concerned with helping readers to think of discussed subject matters from an intellectually flexible perspective. We believe that our conclusion is being fully consistent with the initial thesis, outlined in the paper’s Introduction.
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