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Themes/ Being human: Investigative journalism

In a time where talk of fake news is everywhere and the media is under judgement from society, it’s important to remember that there are still journalists out there seeking the truth. Ifan introduces us to contemporary investigative journalism.

From Stacey Dooley delving deep into environmental issues in fashion to Louis Theroux meeting some of America’s growing population of transgender children, investigative journalism has had a revival these past couple of years. With more access to documentaries, audio and the written word than ever before, journalists are finding easier and more widespread ways to tell their stories to a variety of modern and traditional audiences; be it through YouTube, podcasts, or even more conventional methods like books and broadcast television.

Investigative journalism is a thriving aspect of 21st Century culture, with investigative documentaries being one of streaming’s most successful genres. The people behind these documentaries are becoming the household names of the next generation of factual storytelling, so here are my top picks of the best investigative journalism to check out.

‘Stacey Dooley Investigates: Are your clothes wrecking the planet?’

Credit: ‘Confronting High Street Shoppers With a Shocking Truth: Stacey Dooley Investigates. Video courtesy of BBC Three.

You may know Stacey Dooley best for her hugely successful run on Strictly Come Dancing in 2018, but what got her on the popular dancing show in the first place was her acclaimed approach to investigating and documenting issues affecting young people around the world today and essentially becoming the face of factual television on BBC Three’s online service.

In this documentary, Stacey looks at how fast fashion is damaging our environment and why cheap clothes that are bought in bulk are leading to a global crisis. Stacey travels to Kazakhstan and reveals how mass cotton production has led to the shrinking of one of the country’s biggest water supplies, showing just how our need for large quantities of the clothing material can damage one of the Middle East’s biggest nations.

The full episode is no longer available on BBC iPlayer but you can read and view clips on bbc.co.uk/bbcthree

Find out more about Stacey Dooley’s sustainable fashion campaigning via ‘5×15: Talks’ on Selfridges YouTube channel

Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

Credit: Illustration of Michael Moore, Jacquelinekato (CC BY-SA) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Michael Moore is a veteran documentarian and activist, with many documentaries about American culture under his belt. In Fahrenheit 11/9, he investigates how politicians will go to extreme lengths to gain power, both socially and financially. As an outspoken Trump critic, Moore discusses and dissects his personal connection to Trump and his campaign, having met the President several times in his long-running media career. He examines how Trump, and many rich white men like him, have reached the top and acted corrupt while up there.

A key sequence in the documentary is a hugely personal journey for Michael, who discusses how the US state of Michigan has failed to fix the actions of the then-governor Rick Snyder, who caused lead poisoning in the water system of of Michael’s hometown Flint.

Fahrenheit 11/9 has a 15 rating (suitable only for 15 years and older). It is currently available to view on Netfix.com

ABC News: ‘The Dropout’ Podcast

Credit: ABC News’ ‘’The Dropout’ podcast is available for free on all podcast platforms. It is presented and created by journalist Rebecca Jarvis.

‘The Dropout’, a podcast by the American Broadcast Company’s news division, became a viral sensation online last year, and even spawned a television documentary and a fictional adaptation. The story of entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes has gripped podcast listeners globally, and some have called her rise and fall a modern cautionary tale.

The podcast chronicles Elizabeth’s story from when she drops out of the well-respected Stanford University to start her own medical-testing company, which she called Theranos, to her eventual exposure as a fraud. Initially Theranos looked like a promising solution to the discomfort of needle-based blood testing, but later it became clear that her company’s technology didn’t quite work. Holmes went from being the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire to being charged with eleven different crimes by the US federal government.

Want to make your own podcasts? Explore Dalia’s podcast series in our ‘How To/Techniques’ section

Channel 4’s Dispatches

Credit: Dispatches logo courtesy of Channel 4.

The investigative documentary series Dispatches by public broadcaster Channel 4 is one of the most acclaimed non-fictional storytelling pieces of television today. The BAFTA-winning series covering all aspects of culture. From the unstoppable growth of online retail giant Amazon to the underground network of women trying to save women and children from the grasp of ISIS in the Middle East.

With a large variety of famous British journalists fronting their pieces, Channel 4’s Dispatches have proven themselves to be gripping and informative television for all audiences. And in the age of on-demand TV, Channel 4’s online streaming service houses a huge library of their programming.

Discover Dispatches episodes via Channel 4

Advisory note: if you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in Dispatches episodes, Channel 4 visit the 4Viewers page

Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids

Credit: Photograph of Louis Theroux, IAB UK via Flickr.

Fast becoming a national treasure, Louis is the go-to for hard-hitting factual storytelling on television today. As a fan of Louis, it was tough to pick one of his incredible documentaries to talk about, but his Transgender Kids documentary is truly a unique standout. Louis doesn’t just approach this story as a documentarian or journalist, he also approaches it as a father to young children.

He is kind, caring and sensitive to the young subjects of the story, while also being empathetic with the parents guiding their children through it. Louis’ documentaries may have become infamous for unveiling hateful aspects of the world, but in this instalment, Louis proves there’s still love and hope in the world, even if ethics do sometimes come into question. 

Watch more documentaries featuring investigative journalism on BBC iPlayer

Advisory note: Some documentaries may feature nudity and /or are adult in nature.

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