Isham: Investigative reporting ‘core mission’ of news division

March 6, 2007

March 6, 2007 — At the Shorenstein Center’s brown-bag lunch, Chris Isham, Chief of Investigative Projects for ABC News, described his unit as a “full service operation” that produces investigative-based programming “from soup to nuts” for the network’s entire news division.

Isham expressed strong opinions about the issue of journalist-source confidentiality. He said that developing trustworthy sources is perhaps both the greatest challenge and most essential element of in-depth investigative reporting, and called the provision of source confidentiality “essential” — particularly for gaining sources within bureaucratic organizations. “Without those sources,” he explained, “our ability to report how things work would be severely limited.”

Isham further commented that compelling journalists’ testimony via subpoena or indictment is akin to “playing with fire.” Echoing remarks made by another investigative reporter, Renee Ferguson, at a brown-bag lunch in February, Isham noted that investigative reporting is one branch of journalism that is actually thriving in today’s cutthroat marketplace.

Networks have discovered that investigative reporting is an effective means to distinguish themselves from one another, Isham said. He added that investigative reporting is no longer considered a “luxury,” but instead is now part of the “core mission” of the news division.