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June 8, 2014
American Investigative Journalist: “Never Give up while Searching Information and Don’t Take the “No” Answer”
By Hasmik Paytyan
JNews reporter
American Investigative Journalist: “Never Give up while Searching Information and Don’t Take the “No” Answer”
David Bloss/Courtesy photo

The investigative journalism plays a crucial role in the journalistic field. The information technologies create great facilities for the development of this aspect of journalism. Particularly, investigative journalism has a great significance for each society in terms of covering key issues and problems and trying to offer suggestions to them. JNews.am had an interview with David Bloss, an American investigative journalist on the problems that investigative journalists face, the most important tips for the beginners in this field, etc. Bloss is the South Caucasus regional editor of the “Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting” Project in Georgia and lecturer at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA).

In your opinion, what kind of obstacles do the investigative journalists face in the South Caucasus region comparing to the West?

It’s pretty tough everywhere, you see problems in all the countries. The problem that I see in Armenia is that, for instance, members of Parliament by law have to file record declaration what money they have, what property they own and things like that. I have seen documents here from some people and it is freely obvious that they have a lot of money and the list on the document is that they only have very little money or they have one flat or no car. So, by the laws it’s good you can get the documents now. But there is some situation here that the documents are useless because the information on them is not true. That’s a tough thing but that will be solved over a period of time that some people in the Government here or Parliament will decide that the information needs to be accurate and they will put law or something in place that will change that. But that does not mean that I see it only here: there is no country in the world that anybody wants to give you information. I worked for a newspaper that was in US and 180 years old and it was really a big part of the community, a part of the country. And one year, we spent $500, 000 USD on lawyers suing to get information from our own local Government. Just like in your country, they should have given us information in five days or in 10 days. But people don’t want to give you information. That's not different here, in Caucasus or anywhere else. I know it's hard here, but not that much different to other places, to be honest with you.   

What are the most important tips for the beginner investigative journalists? What would you advise those who are making their first steps in this field?

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You will not finish the story in weeks, in months unless you are really interested, you are really curious and you really care about it. Don't start the story unless you really care about it. As for practical tip, it's the whole idea how to get the documents: be polite, don't ever get angry, but don't take “no” for an answer, and if it does not come back or if they don't give you something, don't give up or try to protest, to complain on Facebook. It does not work. The information belongs to the people.  That's the thing to remember here. Businesses can make an argument because it's their information, it's their business and it's their private information and, but there is no such thing as the Government. The Government is only you, guys. And here you vote. You pick these people, you pay them, it's not their information. And when they say no this belongs to us, that's the thing we must remember: don't get angry or don't get frustrated, but don't ever think that it's theirs. We don't fight it very much when it's truly national security. For instance, in Georgia they say we don't give information about the gold mine, because it's in our national interest, but that's not true. We all know, it's not. But that gold like in Armenia belongs to you guys, to the people: it's not theirs, it's not their information, it's not their gold. We just have to remind that the information is not theirs: you pay them. You pay for the computers, you even pay for the person who tell you “no”.

What influence does the development of information technologies have on this field of journalism?  

The influence is amazing. Even 10 years ago for the information you went to the public library. The fact, I can type a name in the Google and get any information which is unbelievable. You can sit here and see Russian records. And it is so fast. We do not need to care about our pocket; you plug in your computer and find anything.  

 

David Bloss visited Armenia to conduct a three-day training “How to Use Databases in the Investigative Journalism” held at Yerevan State University of Languages and Social Sciences named after V. Brusov which was organized by “International Journalism” Scientific-Educational Center of the University with the financial support of the US Embassy in Armenia.  

This article was prepared within the framework of the “Internet and Rights” newsletter published by “Journalists for the Future” NGO with the financial support of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. Content, views and opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and it is possible that they do not match with the views neither of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, nor the US Embassy in Armenia. Find all of the materials of the newsletter “Internet and Rights” here.

Source: JNews.am 

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