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The man that started investigative journalism

Posted by: | September 10, 2012 | No Comment |

On April 11, 1836, 23-year-old prostitute Ellen Jewett was found brutally murdered in her bed. With a bloody gash in her head, and her body left charred from arson, police arrested clerk Richard P. Robinson. Usually this would be the end of the case, but as most journalists are, James Gordon Bennett was curious wanted to look into it further. So began investigative journalism.

James Gordon Bennett Sr. of the New York Herald

At the time, it was considered inappropriate and unprofessional for journalists to go beyond reporting the news on the surface.

“Bennett’s great strength as a journalist was his alertness to news and the energy and ingenuity he brought to the pursuit of news” (Stephens, 230). Although the crime appeared to be committed by Jewett’s male companion, Bennett decided to dig deeper. What he found would redefine the career of a journalist.

Revisiting the crime scene, Bennett found that all the signs pointed to the innocence of Robinson and the possible involvement of the victim’s landlord. Although no arrest was made, Bennett’s investigative reporting in the Herald was admired and opened doors for the investigative journalism era.

Thanks to Bennett, journalists were considered just as important as the police when it came to reporting crime and readers were considered the jury. This still exists in today’s world.

However, the transformation of journalism from print to internet to social media has made it possible for anyone to become an investigative journalist.

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