Investigative journalism is here to stay says The Australian’s Dan Box

Investigative journalism isn’t anywhere near dead with new “incredible” mediums to tell stories, The Australian’s award-winning national crime reporter, Dan Box has said.

Speaking with Mumbrella ahead of the launch of his new vodcast documentary series, The Queen & Zak Grieve, Box said while there was less “traditional, old-fashioned journalism”, new mediums will “breathe a little more life” into investigative journalism.

Box says podcasts, and hopefully vodcasts will help ‘breathe life’ into investigative journalism. Photograph: Aaron Smith

“I don’t think investigative journalism is anywhere near dead. Things have changed and newspapers have changed, there’s fewer staff, we have less time, but we are also doing things like this.”

Box, who was also behind the Walkley award-winning podcast, Bowraville, which has been downloaded more than half a million times, has been off his newsdesk for more than two months, working on the project with Ivan O’Mahoney, producer and director, and Nial Fulton, executive producer, from InFilms.

O’Mahoney and Fulton have won awards for Hitting Home, Borderland and Matilda and Me.

The six 10-minute films, which will be available to stream daily from August 28 until September 2, tell the story of a young indigenous man, Zak, who has been convicted of murder and is facing a life in prison as a result of the Northern Territory’s mandatory sentencing laws.

Produced by Infilms, The Queen & Zak Grieve is funded by Screen Australia, and will also appear on The Australian’s website. It will then be reformatted as a one-hour documentary feature on Foxtel’s Crime and Investigation channel on September 27 at 7:30pm.

“It’s never been done in Australia before [ a vodcast series], I think the New Yorker has done it once, and so that was our only model.

“It was very fortunate on my part that they [Infilms] came to us with the idea for the presentation and it obviously really suits the newspaper, because the newspaper is both a really powerful platform for telling stories and is increasingly interested in the last few years under Paul Whittaker, in finding new particularly digital ways of telling stories.”

Box said The Australian will not only release the vodcast series over the course of the week, but will also produce editorial content for the paper, and extra material online, including extended interviews and exhibits from the trial, available for subscribers.

Box was also part of the team who created award-winning podcast, Bowraville

“What you’ll get from that is the ability to tell different parts of the stories in different ways. The video will be really good at showing you the people involved, the emotions involved, and giving you a really powerful insight into that world.

“The newspaper is really good at just zeroing in on facts, and really picking at one issue and forensically dissecting it.

“The two things together will be hopefully a really good way of telling a story,” he said.

He is hopeful the new vodcast series will set a template for the paper to continue more video work.

CEO of The Australian, Nicholas Gray said the newspaper was always looking for new ways to tell stories.

“The Australian’s strategy is to inform our audience wherever they are consuming news in print and digital.  

“Our commitment to investigative journalism is as strong as ever, but we’re always looking for new ways, and new collaboration partners, to better tell these stories.”

Commenting on his biggest challenge, Box said it was the same as any piece of reporting – the responsibility to the people whose story you have to tell.

“In this case you have a young bloke in jail, where the judge says he shouldn’t have gone down for the crime he did, and you are dealing with that young man’s family, his mother, his brother, other relatives, his friends. They talk to you and put some trust in your that you’re going to tell their story right – by which I think they mean fairly.”

Glenice Grieve (Zak’s mother) holds a photo of Zak: The Queen & Zak Grieve is available for streaming from August 28, but subscribers can download the whole series on August 26

He said his main aim for the new series is to tell the story as fairly and properly as possible, rather than using it as campaign for change.

However, he added: “What I do think it highlights, and what I would like to see changed is the laws that led to Zak being jailed – mandatory sentencing laws.

“I think that’s a fundamental violation in the separation of powers. I do not think it should be allowed.

“I fundamentally disagree with that, I would love to see those laws reconsidered, by people who are smarter than me and see if they can come up with something better, that wouldn’t have this effect on Glenice.”

He hope believes podcasts, and hopefully vodcasts, are “incredible ways” to deliver investigative journalism.

“There’s less of the traditional old-fashioned journalism but more of this new journalism. These new  forms hopefully will breathe a little more life into investigative journalism.

“In Australia you have some great practitioners, there’s some seriously good investigative reporters in this country. Look at Nick McKenzie, Kate McClymont, anything by Four Corners really, there’s some great work done out here.

“Look at things like BuzzFeed. They do some great investigative work so I think investigative journalism will live as long as the people are who determined to do it and there’s always more people that want to do that kind of work,” he said.

“In terms of the mediums, podcasts and hopefully vodcasts are an incredible way to do it.

“But investigative journalism isn’t going anywhere.”


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