The Dutch-Flemish Association for Investigative Journalism VVOJ was established in 2002 in Amsterdam. The not-for-profit association aims to enhance investigative journalism in the Low Countries – Netherlands and Flanders, Belgium – in the broadest sense of the word.
VVOJ, which currently has more than 650 members, organizes and facilitates professional training, courses, workshops and conferences.
VVOJ wants to improve conventional investigative methods – like getting access to documents, interpreting annual reports and budgets, or management of sources and investigative projects – and introduce the latest research methods involving the use of information technology, interactive storytelling and datajournalism.
In addition, VVOJ wants to stimulate journalists of different media to cooperate on investigative projects too large for one medium. The association also seeks international cooperation. This may lead to better coverage of international news and to adding an international context to domestic news.
The association organizes (annual) investigative reporting conferences, thematic evening sessions (Mediacafé in Flanders and VVOJ Café in the Netherlands), and various training seminars, and publishes an annual anthology of investigative stories with explanations of methods and strategies by the authors (since 2013 also available as App), as well as research reports on the state of the journalism profession. In 2004, the association launched a prestigious award for investigative journalism (‘De Loep’).
- VVOJ Cafés: regular public lectures and trainings for small audiences, members and non-members.
- Training sessions, including in-house training for several large media outlets in the Netherlands and Belgium, for members
- Annual De Loep Award for the best productions of investigative journalism in Flanders and the Netherlands (audio/video/print).
- Publication of a Year Book in which journalists reflect on research techniques and methods, as well as the outcome of investigative stories.
- Production and publication of reports, text books and studies on the journalistic profession.
- VVOJ Young Professionals: activities for young members
- VVOJ Regio: activities for journalists working for local and regional press organisations (members and non-members)
- VVOJ freelancers: activities for freelance investigators (members).
In addition, VVOJ cooperates with national and international journalism organisations in the organisation of events and conferences with a focus on investigative reporting. VVOJ is an active co-organizer of the Global Investigative Journalism Conferences through the Global Investigative Journalism Network.
Definition of investigative journalism
- Critical and in depth journalism
- Journalism that does not merely pass on news that is already there, but creates news that would not have been there without the journalist’s intervention. This may happen by creating new facts, but also by interpreting or connecting already known information in a new way. In depth means a substantial journalistic effort was made, either in a quantitative sense – e.g. time spent on research, number of sources consulted – or in a qualitative sense – e.g. sharp questions formulated, new approaches taken up – or a combination of both.
The VVOJ distinguishes three kinds of investigative journalism (that may overlap):
- Revealing scandals. Tracing infringements of laws, rules or morals by companies, organizations or persons.
- Assessing governments’, companies’ and other organisations’ policies or actions.
- Describing social, economic, political and cultural trends, to trace changes in society.
History of the VVOJ Association
The Vereniging van Onderzoeksjournalisten (VVOJ) was founded in Amsterdam on February 26th, 2002. The initiators were Dutch and Flemish journalists that met each other at the first international conference on investigative journalism in Copenhagen, the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2001.
Exchanging knowledge about methods of investigation, and the opportunities for building international networks during that conference were so inspiring to them that they wanted to organize a similar conference in the low countries. That first VVOJ conference in Utrecht, only seven months later, was attended by 220 journalists.
Since then, the association hosted conferences in Antwerpen (2003), Rotterdam (2004), Amsterdam (2005, the third Global Investigative Journalism Conference), Mechelen (2006), Groningen (2007), Brussels (2008, the first European Investigative Journalism Conference), Utrecht (2009), Ghent (2010), Eindhoven (2011), Antwerp (2012, the second European Investigative Journalism Conference) and Zwolle (2013).
All of the VVOJ work is done by volunteers (except for a director, office manager and two web editors, all of them part-time),
VVOJ’s money comes from membership fees and sponsorships only.
Over the last years, the VVOJ saw a growing need to focus a conference on Europe, the European institutions, and cross border European investigative journalism. Since over 70 percent of our rules and regulations stem from “Europe as a whole”, no one, no matter how small the paper or how local the radio station, can deny the importance of Europe and its institutions; hence our two European conferences (2008, 2012).