Undercover Science Journalism

Undercover Science Journalism

K2) Undercover Science Journalism

Organizer: Hristio Boytchev


Undercover reporting—doing a journalistic investigation while pretending not be a journalist—has been interwoven with science and health journalism probably since Nellie Bly’s famous 1887 book, Ten Days in a Mad-House. Although today it is not a very common approach in science journalism, it is still a useful tool that can help dig out information when conventional reporting methods fail. In recent years, several high-profile undercover investigations have shed light on malpractice in science and medicine.

This session gives an international overview of the genre: What are the ethical considerations? What is the legal background? And last, but not least, what could possibly go wrong? The speakers introduce us to their firsthand experience of investigations in which they have participated: posing as a patient to uncover beauty clinics pushing senseless and risky vitamin infusions in England; visiting alternative healers in Germany who claim to cure cancer; or pretending to be a medical student to uncover the corruption and nepotism in medical education in Nepal.

Together the speakers aim to find and extract basic principles of what makes a good undercover story.