WBAL’s Jayne Miller discusses the importance of investigative reporting
In the mid-1980s, Kirk Bloodsworth was wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Rosedale, Md., and sentenced to death row. During his time in prison, Bloodsworth maintained that he was innocent, prompting reporters to further investigate his case. In 1993, Bloodsworth pushed for DNA testing, a relatively new form of evidence at the time. The results proved Bloodworth’s innocence, leading to his release from prison and his eventual exoneration when DNA identified the real killer.
The multi-decade saga of Bloodsworth’s conviction, release and liberation from death row was covered by local, regional and national news outlets and countless investigative reporters. One reporter, WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller, reported on the case from the beginning. She questioned the thoroughness of the police investigation and Bloodsworth credits her efforts and those of the WBAL-TV News I-Team for raising questions about his case. Miller even continued covering the story 20 years after Bloodsworth’s pardon.
Miller is currently the lead investigative reporter for the I-Team at WBAL-TV in Baltimore. She has covered a wide range of stories, including the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, Kirk Bloodsworth’s exoneration and the recent health care exchange. Her 30-year career has been dedicated to investigative reporting, as is evident in the work she does to uncover information about topics important to those around her. “If something doesn’t look right,” Miller said, “pursue it.”
The news industry is seeing a larger interest in investigative reporting, which Miller said has been going on for a while. “Investigative reporting has remained an integral part of our organization. And I would say it is as important as ever in journalism, but it has been adversely affected by cutbacks in the newspaper industry.”
While some newspapers may be cutting back, however, numerous television stations like WBAL-TV now have entire teams dedicated to this type of reporting. Some stations are even expanding their investigative efforts, like WISH-TV in Indianapolis, which doubled the size of its I-Team this year. Not only is investigative reporting important in uncovering important news stories, like the thoroughness of police investigations in the case of Kirk Bloodsworth, but it can also impact viewers and even policymakers. As a result, Miller believes that investigative teams will continue to grow. “It’s something that can be marketed, and it’s about branding,” she said.
Miller’s entire career has been focused on investigative reporting, and she noted that WBAL strongly believes in uncovering the truth and always has. Although not every news story spans decades like the Kirk Bloodsworth case, every investigative report does require attention to detail, with accuracy, fairness and objectivity in mind. “For people who are really serious about journalism, good reporting is good reporting,” she said. “It’s reporting plus. It’s about the persistence that it sometimes requires. You can’t be afraid of stepping on people’s toes. You can’t shy away from certain topics. You have to build trust.”
Milller’s advice to journalists and reporters interested in investigative reporting: build your network of information and never take no for an answer. “It’s really up to the individual to determine if that’s the kind of work they want to do because it can take a lot of time and effort, and you have to build the right kind of network of information sources to be able to do it consistently,” Miller said. “The best investigative reporters are the nosiest.”
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