DOI: 10.5176/2301-3710_JMComm13.22

Authors: Camille Descamps

The starting point of my research is based on the numerous and recurring discourses pronounced by Belgian and foreign journalists and publishers in relation to investigative journalism. A central idea consistently returns : if news organizations invested more in investigation reporting, they will be far better. Through these words, the practice is glorified by news professionals. The current context of "digital age" enhances the production of such discourses. New technologies and the Internet make crucial for news actors to affirm or reaffirm their societal role. On the one hand, they are losing their monopoly as people collecting, processing and disseminating the news. On the other hand, traditional economic models designed to fund journalism are gradually wobbling. Advertising is no longer a strong pillar and new economic systems are required to sustain the craft. In this changing environment, there is an important issue for publishers and journalists to convince the public to invest in news because of its high-quality. In recent years, a concept is more and more prevalent in the media field, this of innovation that is similar to a remodeling of journalistic practices. Paradoxically, one of the parameters of innovation advocates a return to fundamentals whose investigation reporting is at the core. This context contributes to the revival of the myth of the investigation - the image of the vigilante journalist desperate to defend justice and democratic values against the societal dysfunctions. This idealized representation of journalism through the practice of investigative journalism is active both on the professional and the public side, causing it to vocations and enthusiasm for the craft. In summarizing the different definitions of myth and stereotype, it is possible to underline the active role but also the reducibility that brings the mobilization of such an image. In addition, our framework considering journalism as socially situated object (J. Fouré) and which is the object of subjectivation by its actors. The sociology of professions, analyzed through current functionalist and interactionist, highlights the sedimentation process and professionalization of journalism. In this perspecitve, the concept of professionnalisme du flou proposed by Denis Ruellan (1997) used to characterize the instability of identity and the porosity of the journalistic field in constant search of legitimation. The concepts of device, dispersion and depletion outlined by Michel Foucault considering the plurality of journalistic practices by confronting the need circonscirption and closing territory. Through the analysis of forty semi-structured interviews conducted with american and belgian investigative reporters, emerging indicators such as democracy, objectivity, freedom of the press, skills, independence , ethics, truth, and fourth power can be brought out. By means of our theoretical framework, these parameters underlie an issue of identity and professionalization process in the field of journalism. The use of strong concepts - semantic and full of imagery- by journalists allows them to reframe their mission in the eyes of civil society. This hermeneutic approach seems innovative since a review of the literature points to a lack of such a perspective in relation to investigation reporting. A large part of the work tends to adopt a historical-descriptive approach or analyzes an aspect linked to the practice. It’s not our purpose to punish or reward it, our approach is, firstly, to demystify and to give a more complete and realistic account of investigative reporting. Secondly, we consider to link it to the journalistic field and its concerns, adopting an endegenous position turned to the discourses of its actors.

Keywords: Representations, professionalism, plurality of practices, credibility, journalistic identity


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