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Hypothesis in investigative journalism

"The hypothesis consists of "facts and assumptions". Facts: It is strong, confirmed and documented information".
Most journalists, including experienced journalists, find it difficult to write a journalistic investigation hypothesis, and the reason is that this style of journalistic work touches the patterns of scientific research in its concept and tools, and intersects with them in many aspects, and it also needs a deep understanding of the topic at hand, with no ease in writing the hypothesis, which takes it out of its goal, and the main goal of the investigation is lost.
It is not a professional defect that the hypothesis falls or changes, but the professional defect is that it is written in a random way, or does not accurately set the basic determinants of the investigation, which are the action (case or event), the actor (responsible or causing), the object (Victims), and then the impact, breadth and size of the problem or issue.
Based on the above, some scholars call the hypothesis the “constitution of the investigation”, and assert that the best investigations are those that are based on a good hypothesis.
One of the useful tips for journalists in writing investigative story hypotheses is to stay away from loose propositions, and to set a certain and clear angle, as it should be short, about two or three lines maximum, which is indicated in the “Story-Based Inquiry/ a Manual for Investigative Journalists”, developed by a group of specialists headed by Mark Lee Hunter, one of the most important theorists of investigative journalism.
Presenting a hypothesis that says, “I want to investigate corruption”, the guide considers it not a good proposition, because corruption exists everywhere in the world, and then your hypothesis will be rejected, but, “If you say instead, “Corruption in the school system has destroyed parents’ hopes that their children will live a better life,” and that this has devastating effects on at least two groups of people, parents and children, you tell a specific story, and this is more interesting, and it is a hypothesis that is generally unproven, and it bears right and wrong, and here You have to get the facts.
From this specificity, we proceed to say that the hypothesis consists of “facts and assumptions”. Facts: It is strong, confirmed and documented information.
Assumptions: Information that has not yet been confirmed, and the journalist works to prove or refute it.
The guide advises first developing the hypothesis, then separating its terminology, and arriving at the questions that each term generates.
If the hypothesis is, “Corruption in the school system has destroyed parents’ hopes that their children will live a better life”, its terminology should be broken down into the following:
Corruption:
• What exactly do we mean by “corruption”?
• Bribery and nepotism in employment?
• How is this done in schools, if at all?.
School System:
• What kind of school, how many?
• Does corruption work the same way in each?
• What rules are supposed to prevent corruption?
• Why don’t these rules work?
• What are the different types of people working in the system, and how are power and rewards distributed among them?.
Parents’ hopes shattered:
• Who parents have suffered corruption?
• What are their hopes?
• How did they think education helped achieve those dreams?.
Their children live a better life:
• Are the children aware of what is happening?
• Does education really make life better for children?
• How?.
This is a set of advantages and benefits of writing a hypothesis, based on the opinions of specialists, as well as the Hunter manual and his collection:
• It gives you something to verify, rather than pursuing an unknown secret.
• Increase your chances of discovering the subtleties.
• Makes it easy to manage your project.
• The premise enables you to organize your work and do it without clutter in the coming times.
• It ensures a story, not just a block of data.
• Facilitates data collection, collection, organization and analysis of new facts and evidence.
• Maintain control over the investigation and manage it effectively.
• It helps in focus, accuracy, and setting limits and goals of the investigation.
• Help come up with solutions if problems arise.
• Help market the idea to others.
• Help to make budgets.
• Help discipline and control of time and resources.
• Helps identify sources of investigation.
The hypothesis remains subject to change, which requires flexibility from the journalist to modify it, and he should not be drawn into it if information appears that contradicts it, as it is ultimately a “mental trick”, if it fails, he can return to square one and write it again.
The journalist should not forget that he presents in the end a story, seeking change, and he must present the story from the moment before the occurrence of corruption, violation or phenomenon, and the goal is to understand its background, and then look at its current reality, and the journalist is not satisfied with that, as he is required to move to the future of the possible story, based on the data and opinions of experts, digital analyzes and data available in his hands.
Article source: Enab Baladi

Ali Eid - Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Syria Indicator

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