The Investigative Journalism Workshop: a Programme Description
While South Africa has a rich tradition of investigative journalism, this has been dominated by the national press and has not taken root at a regional, local or municipal level. As a result the activities of local authorities are seldom subjected to journalistic scrutiny. This lack of a regional and local watchdog function is a serious weakness in a young democracy.

The Investigative Journalism Workshop (IJW) was established in late 2005 in order to address this pressing need for in-depth reporting at local and provincial levels. The project’s prime focus is therefore on providing assistance to local and regional journalists who often operate under conditions not conducive to investigative journalism such as lack of resources, space and time as well as complicated local political relationships.

The IJW is housed at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa and is managed by an experienced journalist, Birgit Schwarz. It works in close partnership with local media who wish to conduct investigations into local government and it provides its partners with research support, mentorship, training and access to a wide range of resources and expert networks.

With its base in Johannesburg, the IJW ensures that investigations can take place at arm’s length from local political and financial pressure. Mentorship in the field ascertains that the assistance and training offered is applied in the newsroom and has a long term impact on the quality and quantity of investigative reporting. Regular training workshops for practicing investigative reporters are conducted by experienced, working professional practitioners and provide insights into investigative techniques, forensic accounting, legal and ethical issues or the rules and practices of local government. This combination of approaches allows for a balance between what is best learned in the classroom and what can only be learned in the field and aims at establishing a sustainable culture of investigation in local and provincial newsrooms.

The Centre furthermore

  • organises internships for junior journalists to spend time focusing on investigations.
  • provides access to professional experts from Wits and elsewhere, such as lawyers, accountants, IT experts;
  • facilitates exchange of information and cooperation between partners spread across the country;
  • facilitate access to national and international media organizations
  • uses the Wits website at as a research and resource hub as well as a tool for communication among and between partners.

The programme is run by the Wits Journalism Programme in conjunction with the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) and the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) in London. This partnership combines local and global experience in investigative journalism and training, the resources of Wits University, including forensic accounting and legal expertise, and the standing and experience of the IAJ in community media.

Core funding comes from Idasa, Pact and USAID; additional programme support was received from the David and Elaine Potter Foundation. The project was kick-started in November 2005 with a Spring School of Investigative Journalism – the Investigative Journalism Workshop’s first Investigative Journalism “Power Reporting” Conference.