The Power of Investigative Journalism

Erin Overbey, The Power of Investigative Journalism, The New Yorker, Sunday, 25 August 2019. “On January 11, 1994, a fax arrived at the United Nations warning of an impending massacre in Rwanda. The message was sent by Major General Roméo Dallaire, the U.N. force commander in the country, to the U.N.’s headquarters, in New York. In ‘The Genocide Fax,’ Philip Gourevitch reports the intricate tale of how this warning went unheeded and, three months later, members of the Hutu majority killed at least eight hundred thousand people from the Tutsi minority. In 1995, Gourevitch travelled to Rwanda to examine the aftermath of the genocide and to offer a detailed account of the horrors there. As he traces the origins of the fax, Gourevitch unravels the layers of bureaucracy surrounding the plight of the Rwandans. His piece, like all good investigative reporting, offers an incisive portrait of the miscalculations and blunders that ultimately led to such disastrous consequences. This week, we’re bringing you this report and other highlights from The New Yorker’s long history of investigative journalism. In ‘Silent Spring,’ Rachel Carson offers a groundbreaking examination of the environmental impact of DDT and other pesticides. Seymour M. Hersh reports on the My Lai massacre, in Vietnam, in 1972, and Jane Mayer explores how, during the George W. Bush Administration, an internal effort to ban the torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay was thwarted. In ‘Unholy Acts,’ which was published nearly a decade before the Boston Globe ran its Spotlight series on the Catholic Church abuse scandal, Paul Wilkes writes about the Church’s failure to confront hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct with children. In ‘Abuses of Power,’ Ronan Farrow shares the harrowing allegations by multiple women of their abuse and harassment by Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood. Susan Sheehan investigates the case of a schizophrenic patient at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, in Queens Village, New York, in 1981, and Ed Caesar chronicles a ten-billion-dollar Russian money-laundering scheme at Deutsche Bank. In ‘Casualties of War,’ Daniel Lang reports on the rape and murder of a village girl by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Finally, in ‘The Apostate,’ Lawrence Wright examines the history of the Church of Scientology and describes the director Paul Haggis’s efforts to leave the Church. At a time of global uncertainty, these stories are a bracing reminder of the power of investigative reporting.”