Czech investigative journalist Lukas Landa gave a lecture at AAU, Oct. 17. Landa spoke in Czech and professor Sylvia Vondrackova, the organizer of the event, translated the speech into English. Before students filled room 311, Landa received a call from the Czech national TV station – CT1. He was told to rush to the newsroom as soon as possible.
Several DDP (Prague’s department of transportation) officials were arrested. Two years ago Landa did an exposé on the DDP for Reporteri CT, a program on CT1. It was Landa’s story that first revealed that millions were being tunneled from the DDP to the Virgin Islands and prompted a police investigation.
Landa did a commentary on the turn of the events that very evening. Landa; no rookie in the audacious field – with 14 years of experience under his belt – had much to share with students. He described his experience in Czech investigative journalism.
The whole of investigative journalism in the country entails three newspapers and two television programs – Landa has worked for both of them. These were Reporteri CT; a national television program and Na Vlastni Oci; a program on commercial television TV Nova.
Respective pressures come with working for national and commercial stations. With commercial stations, there is the pressure to up the entertainment factor, which often comes at the price of quality journalism. With national stations, there are political pressures. In the case of CT 1, its media council – though seemingly independent – is elected by the Czech parliament. A journalist is either battling advertisers or politicians. Furthermore, television journalism has other pros and cons.
The benefit is that there is more time for journalists to “do their homework.” They can verify each piece of evidence; there is one to two months of preparation for each story. Nonetheless, sometimes weeks of investigation and hard work lead nowhere. A story will be abandoned if it lacks enough evidence. There is no room for error.
The visual aspect in TV journalism can be a great advantage. Humans are visual beings. Someone can be portrayed as a crook, without outright proclamation, just by focusing on certain details.
If a man is dressed in a pink suit and is wearing a golden watch, the audience will know he is a gangster without the journalist even saying it. But, there is also a serious disadvantage. People tend to act unnatural on camera and the essence of an entire story may be lost.
Landa observed that upon leaving Prague, other journalists are shocked by his reporting attitude. Regional journalists are not comfortable with posing controversial questions, like he is. This is because many of their sole sources of information are local politicians. If they upset them; they have no news.
Accordingly, as a journalist, it is important to always question who is giving you information and why. People tend to view public relations workers as the “bad guys,” while non-profit organizations are seen as the “good guys.” This approach is wrong; both kinds of sources need to be dealt with in the same manner. Behind each piece of information is a motive.