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What is the typical day in the life of an investigative journalist?

I am a sophomore in high school; I want to become an investigative journalist. I am currently interning at a non-profit where I report on topics such as poverty, poverty alleviation and other worldly issues, but I really want to get a feel for "digging" up stories that could possibly make a greater impact. What would this look like and how does this look like for you?

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Tom’s Answer

Hi g. Great question. I was on the same path many years ago. I went into something else but digging up truth is fundamental to our functioning as a society. Good for you.

These are more thoughts than suggestions, but relevant I hope.

1. join your high school newspaper staff. Ask for investigative story assignments, or, as legal, do your own and hand them to the student paper or local paper unsolicited. Never know.
2. In your work at the non-profit to do the same. Come up with some story ideas and propose them to the group.
3. Keep a digital copy of all you write and all that gets published in whatever pub.
4. Start corresponding with any investigative reporter you can. Tell them you are a student interested in their career field and can you ask them a few questions. Take it from there. (I did just this to a TV newscaster in Chicago and he invited me down to a broadcast, I was blown away, and then he handed me the script he'd just used. Wow). You never know.
5. Find magazines/websites/articles written FOR investigative journalists. What professional journals do they subscribe to and/or read? Do that yourself. Start corresponding with any professional's email that appears in print in such a journal or online.
6. Think about investigative reporting in two segments. First is this skill applied to a wider range of topics, and second is this skill applied to a particular element of society. So if you were seeking employment the jobs are likely of the first and the career in a specialty may come later. That means, when you are seeking to get employed somewhere, besides a collection of published articles you want to 'talk that talk' of an investigative journalist. You get that from steps 1,2,4,5.
7. Then if college is in your future, repeat most of the above, and 'network' with folks in the field already. Most folks are usually willing to offer some advice to a student.
Good luck g. Stay with your dream. We need a lot more folks like you. Regards, Tom

Thank you comment icon Thank you, Mr. Behan! Your response is very appreciated. Dorothy