Many people don’t realize that investigative reporters frequently get their story leads from private investigators or retain private investigators to assist with developing stories. Jim Strickland, Atlanta’s “Channel 2 Action News Consumer Investigator,” suggests that he often follows the leads provided by local private investigators (Engstrom, 2010). The value of journalists employing a private investigator, especially in states that require a license to engage in private investigative activities, is that the investigator is able to obtain records and information using tactics that the journalist may be legally restricted from performing; he or she can continue to conduct an investigation while the reporter focuses attention on more pressing stories; and, the private investigator functions as a corroborating witness, which is a key requirement of quality journalism.
With the introduction of “community funded reporting,” a style of journalistic reporting that has emerged from the blogging movement, the relationship between private investigators and investigative reporters has become stronger and more essential.
Community funded reporting has been described as the confluence of micro-financing and amateur reporting. Individual reporters pitch a topic and community members fund the production and publication of a story, which includes the research into the alleged problematic activity. Spot.us is one of the most widely talked about sites that engages in this type of activity and has helped bring investigative news to consumers, which has diminished in recent years as major city newspapers have gone out of business or have been purchased by major networks that cover sensational or popular culture stories only. Stories on community funded journalist websites have dealt with contentious topics like political corruption, the misuse of public funds, the rise of the military industrial complex, the mistreatment of humans and animals, the abuse of office by public officials, migration and contemporary slavery, and corporate misconduct.
While many of the stories can be funded cheaply and can be handled by an individual reporter, several stories that have been proposed and future stories will benefit from the services of a licensed private investigator. All part-time reporters in general, but especially those without a journalism degree from reputable university, benefit from the expertise of professional investigators. On the one hand, bloggers and investigative reporters, just as reputable journalists like Jim Strickland for large networks, can use private investigators to strengthen the ethos of a story. On the other hand, independent bloggers and journalists benefit from the reduction of risks associated with undertaking contentious investigations. By hiring a private investigator, independent journalists mitigate potential risks by having retained the legal knowledge and expertise of an individual who has been qualified by the state to engage in activities that are restricted to private investigators. What is more, the private investigator can provide the necessary substantiating evidence in stories, increasing the efficacy of a story.
Private investigators are members of the communities and are constantly looking for ways that they can give back. As such, an investigative reporter who pitches a good story may be surprised to learn that the private investigator will work at a substantially reduced fee. Then, by demonstrating to potentially investors that the story is going to be properly handled by professionals, the chances of obtaining the necessary funds becomes easier.
Whether you are a professional or amateur reporter, consider hiring a private investigator to assist you with your story. If you’re a consumer of investigative journalism, insure that the stories you’re reading have been properly researched. One way to check the reporter is to check how she or he did their research and whether they consulted experts, including a private investigator.
Engstrom, C. (2010). Shadowing practices: Ethnographic accounts of private investigators as entrepreneurs. Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale.
Equipment is important
Covert Investigations uses Gen-3 military grade night vision on all night surveillance. See a demo at:
Gen-3 equipment gives you facial recognition from long distances in the middle of the night and with little to no light.
The Gen-3 equipment is not to be confused with the inadequate night shot feature that comes standard with all video cameras. That video when produced only gives silhouetted images and is useless for evidence purposes.
If you have an assignment at night and you want quality identifiable evidence please call me or search a company that has similar equipment.
If an agency says they have Gen-3 equipment demand it be used and refuse to pay for the assignment if the it is not used. Covert Investigations will never bill a client for failure on our part.
Your evidence is important to your case. Be sure your Investigator has that equipment.
Observations & Interviews, a blog by Chet Engstrom
Chet Engstrom is owner of Covert Investigations Services, a private investigations firm located in Lewisville, Texas (DFW area). Texas license number: C10745.
4101 McEwen, Dallas, TX, 75244