If you are dreaming of a career as an Investigative Journalist you need to know that this job is not for everyone. To make sure that you, in fact, were born for this job, and do have what it takes, I’ve talked to a professional investigative journalist Anastasia Mikhailova.
She’s been working for the biggest most essential media portals such as Forbes Russia, The Rain, RBC, etc. She’s been investigating and writing about the most significant cases in politics, crime, and corruption for the last fifteen years. Currently, Anastasia Mikhailova leads a team of Investigative Journalists for The Insider, a highly ranked Russian media source revealing secrets of politicians and oligarchs, people in business, and authorities. If anyone knows what it takes to be an Investigative Journalist, she does.
Not a Sherlock.
Curiosity is not just a virtue but a necessity. No one is going to bring you good ideas on a plate, so you need to be curious about everything and anything. Anastasia sais that this profession doesn’t make one a Sherlock Holmes with a pen, but rather a person is looking for truth. This is a different kind of curiosity. It leads to greater things for everyone. Revealing the truth is something that makes this world a better place.
Eyes wide open.
It is essential to be on a constant lookout for new exciting topics, but you also have to be critical enough not to jump onto every news there is. An investigative journalist is a person on a mission, and a mission is to guard freedom.
I had no idea that I can do investigations that well until I got this case about corruption in the Moscow Court of Law Translating Services.Anastasia Mikhailova
In a Russian Law System, every foreign citizen or any person who doesn’t speak Russian has a right to a translator, but not everyone orders one. In February 2015, Anastasia got a document in her possession that proved that there is a fraud scheme at work in one of Moscow Courts of Law. 300 000 000 rubles were stolen from a local budget by faking requests for translators. Publishing an article about this scheme led to arrests and charges for those in question.
This was a moment when I was forced to understand that my words could change someone’s entire life.Anastasia Mikhailova
It doesn’t have to be a murder.
A common misunderstanding of the word ‘investigation’ is the reason why so many people think that an Investigative Journalist works only on some significant cases of murders. While the job is strongly connected to Tragedy, sometimes it may have nothing to do with death. It doesn’t matter if it’s a train crash or just some stolen money. An investigative journalist is always looking for the truth behind the event. He has to be looking for a reason, a cause of what’s happening.
We’ve spent several months hunting some of the highest level politicians with information on their real estate possessions. As hard as it was to find such information, the result was incredible. There is an unbelievable gap between what’s those people have declared over decades and what they own. The difference is so outrageous that it cannot be explained in any logical or even legal way. We published an article, and let the truth do its job. This is what we do.Anastasia Mikhailova
Everything is Politics.
When something big happens in our World, investigative journalists can be considered as a weapon and a hazardous one. A terrorist attack, a catastrophe, a murder case of a Big-Name-Politician can be interpreted in many different ways, and, in the absence of information, wrongly influence society. Independent investigations do make a difference by showing, researching, uncovering facts, and making them public knowledge.
No one could just go and gun down another human being, and especially not in front of Kremlin!Anastasia Mikhailova (in relation of the killing of Boris Nemtsov)
Since almost every breaking news becomes a playing ground for political discussions, Investigative Journalists present different points of view, and, in many cases, they do reveal the truth in times when some parties do everything possible to cover it up. When it happens, it can change the course of history. As unbelievable as it sounds, this makes every investigative journalist responsible for every word they say, both legally and morally speaking.
No matter what the topic is, a Money Laundering Scheme or Military Crimes in Syria, in most cases, you’re not going to make friends with the people you write about. The good thing is that making friends is not in the job description.
This is something one has to be ready for. There will be scandals, and there will be people whose feelings you’ve offended. Handling this kind of situation is a skill that every investigative journalist has to develop.Anastasia Mikhailova
“Funny story,” she said.
The real danger is not part of the everyday life of an Investigative Journalist, but anything can happen at any moment. The most important thing is to remember the reason behind your actions and stay strong. In most cases, the danger is not as significant as you tend to see it. Yet you have to be brave to keep doing what you’re doing despite fear.
One time we published an article that would show several Supreme Court Judges in a bad light. Funny story is that right after this article saw daylight, I was asked to come somewhere “for a talk.” A car was sent for me by Supreme Court. I didn’t even have time to warn anyone, and I just managed to send a text message to my editor. I didn’t know if I was going to be charged with something or put under some other type of pressure to make me publish a retraction.
In fact, all they wanted was to give me some official comments, which worked out just great for both sides. Yet the trip was scary.Anastasia Mikhailova
Love them, and don’t trust them
Investigative Journalist has to figure out how to do two different things – to be interested in people, and not to trust them at all. Sometimes it is necessary to do both at the same time.
Not always, you’re going to talk to the innocent. It’s quite the opposite. You need to be able to hear both sides of any story, but at the same time, you have to be prepared to tell the truth from a lie.Anastasia Mikhailova
Digging into a story that unravels right in front of your eyes is truly fascinating. Being an investigative journalist often means taking part in history. To me, personally, it sounds like something worth a risk.