by Féliks Cheang

Investigative reporting is all about judgement call and following your own instinct, Reuters’ special correspondent Greg Torode said at a forum Wednesday.

Torode went from covering the transport beat to being an investigate reporter this way, he said.

A reporter should never stop one’s curiosity nor neglect the details, Torode said. “Follow the money and figure out who owns it,” he said.

The more reporters go out on their beats and meet their sources, the more likely they are to find newsworthy stories, Nancy Carvajal, a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said at the forum.

“Everyone has a story to tell,” Carvajal said.

Torode and Carvajal, veteran investigative reporters, are two of six SOPA Award winners speaking in a weeklong forum at Hong Kong Baptist University this year.

“Investigative journalism is a story no one wants you to tell,” said Dr. Cherian George, a journalism professor at HKBU and the moderator of the forum discussion.

Both speakers agreed that freedom of information is essential to investigative reporters. “A free press has an empowered people,” Carvajal said.

Carvajal said most Filipinos now take press freedom for granted.

Torode said there is “very little” information that should be kept secret from the public. Often, information is not controlled because it is detrimental, he said, but “just because the government can.”

Some pro-establishment leaders have had an influence on journalism in Hong Kong, said Torode. Reports from the Hong Kong Journalist Association indicate press freedom in Hong Kong is declining. Torode said he is afraid that less information will become available.

He added, however, that the HKJA is still one of the strongest watchdogs in Asia.

In any country, journalists should expect pressure from influential groups, Carvajal said. But they should learn to how to deal with it and stand up to the pressure, she said.

Self-censorship is worse than government censorship and “insidious,” Torode said. It is “not riding a horse in a race to its full merits.”