There are a lot of websites out there that can help you find hidden information. But there are also software applications and browser plug-ins that can be of use to investigative journalists.
Created by up-and-coming developers and enthusiasts on a budget, many of these programmes are rather unsophisticated, so don’t expect slick interfaces and 24-hour help desks.
That said, if you can get past the jargon and rough-and-ready feel, you’ll find nifty little apps that can help you discover nuggets of information which would be unavailable through conventional means.
Many alternatives are available and, while I’m not personally endorsing the programmes featured here, they can be useful tools. And in terms of BBC investigative journalism they’d have to be used according to our editorial guidelines:
Just before Channel 4 News’s chief correspondent Alex Thomson set off on a reporting assignment to Ebola-hit Sierra Leone earlier this month, one of the show’s digital producers pulled him aside and suggested he should “do some Vines” while he was there. “I looked at him blankly,” says Thomson. “Images of vineyards floated into my head.”
Last week a Silicon Valley billionaire asked me a question. Not, unfortunately, “what are your bank details?”, but something rather more testing: “Name one way in which journalism companies are not the same as software companies.”
Here is an interesting news story written by one of our Third Year Journalism students, Charlotte Jones
Former editor of The News of the World Phil Hall and high profile publicist Max Clifford disagreed over the power of social media recently at a Parliamentary committee enquiring into Privacy and Injunctions.
Hall who is now chairman of PR agency PHA Media said: “As newspaper circulations fall and the internet gets a greater following, the emphasis of the power will change.” He suggested social media is a fear for the privacy of not only celebrities, but of the general public.
Hall pointed out social media is highly influential and can damage an individual’s reputation irreparably. He said: “I have had clients blackmailed on Twitter and pursued around the world on Google… Google and Twitter are far more dangerous to my clients than newspapers.”
He added: “There must be some policing, because there is one law for the print media and no law for the social networking groups… social media at the moment seem to be able to do what they want and hide behind free speech.”
Giving evidence at the committee alongside Hall, publicist Max Clifford disagreed: “Twitter does not have the same credibility…national ¬press is far more powerful.”
Clifford cited the case of Robert Murat who had been falsely accused over the disappearance of Madeline McCann. Clifford told the committee how Robert came to him after being destroyed by the British Media. He said: “If it’s on the front page of the national newspaper… the vast majority of people are either believing it or are influenced by it.”
“Once they are destroyed it is for the rest of their lives they are labelled,” he said.
He fiercely attacked The Press Complaints Commission claiming they were not remotely interested in the case of Robert Murat, “To me the PCC has never existed.”
Hall defended the PCC, he said: “They have been very effective.” But added: “We need a PCC with more teeth.”
The committee asked if legislation could help, Hall said: “There could not be a statutory system because there are so many different circumstances.”
Clifford called for greater protection for members of the public as they do not have the money or ability for a super-injunction. He said: “It is a law purely for the rich and powerful people which in a democracy is wrong…everybody has the right to privacy… the rich and famous have more than enough protection.”
Whilst not agreeing on everything there was agreement between Hall and Clifford in the need for regulation and they pressed MP’s to consider the need for the creation of a new independent complaints body, to provide a “halfway house” between public interest and everybody’s right to privacy “that is not in the pockets of Fleet Street.” This body would oversee social media and the print press.
Clifford hoped that one of the outcomes of the Committee’s meetings would be the establishment of a: “a pro-active Press Complaints body that is good for the press as well as the public.”
All my Charlottes work can be found at: http://undercoveressexgirl.tumblr.com/
hi from the Journalism team. We are part of the Mass Communications department. You can study Journalism as part of your Mass Communications degree, which many of our students do.