A recurring question from journalists who look at Help Me Investigate is ‘Why should I want to do my work in public and risk a rival stealing my story?’
There are 2 answers to this, which I’ll deal with in turn.
Answer 1: It’s not for you if you can do it all by yourself
If you have enough time to keep your story to yourself and do all the work yourself, then fine: you don’t need the site.
Help Me Investigate was launched to address a number of problems. 2 of them are: journalists not having the resources to pursue stories; and people not feeling that the media is interested in the same things as they are.
So by all means choose to do all the investigating yourself, but if you need to ask for help – if, for example, you don’t have the resources, or the story is such a long shot then you cannot risk investing enough time in it – then the site is here. The trade-off is that, yes, it means doing it in public, which takes us onto the second answer.
Answer 2: The rules are changing
The idea behind the ‘exclusive’ relies on a monopoly model of media where you could hold onto your story for months.
That model is breaking down, and a key element in the new model is that distribution is in the hands of users. If you really want to make an impact with your investigation then engaging in a passionate community around it will be key.
There’s also a long-term strategy here which is: if you invest time in an investigation which benefits others in the Help Me Investigate community, they are more likely to help you again, and to tip you off to other stories. This is already happening with the site: journalists who pitch in get tips; those who just take, don’t.