BOHMKE DISHES THE 101 OF CROSS-EXAMINATION
*Caption: Writer, investigator and trainer, Heinrich Bohmke gives a lecture on cross-examination for journalists.
Written by: Zama Ngcoya
Writer, investigator and trainer, Heinrich Bohmke had his audience thoroughly glued to him and intrigued when he delivered his lecture on Cross Examination- For Investigative Reporters, at the 2016 African Investigative Journalism Conference, yesterday.
Through the use of visual aid and examples, Bohmke delivered a presentation titled “How to Tell a Lie” which was aimed at assisting journalists with sharpening their investigative skills through the proper use of cross examination. Among the common red-flags, he listed evasiveness, contradiction, lack of corroboration, bias, inherent improbability and improbability as some of the key aspects for journalists to be on the look-out for, when writing a story.
Bohmke warned against sources who could be a potential threat to a story.
“Sources corroborating can either strengthen or weaken a statement, failure to corroborate= untruthful,” said Bohmke.
He also underlined four types of bias, namely confirmation, latent, interest/outcome of a story and reporting with preconceived notions and encouraged journalists to avoid them.
Bohmke went on to talk about the significance of looking out for inconsistencies in a story.
“If you are a reporter, you don’t just rang the person because you picked up the inconsistencies in their story, but you just don’t write that story, because it’s not safe to write that story. So it’s not like you are saying I don’t believe you, but you can’t write a story when it’s getting progressively incoherent all the time because generally, material changes in a story over time, it’s an indication of unreliability, whether it’s a lie, or the memory that is not reliable,” he emphasised.
He continued to say that it is not always safe for a journalist who wishes to protect their readership and publication from law-suits, to report on a person who has gone through a genuinely traumatic experience but cannot quite hold the story together.
Bohmke closed off his one-hour session by stressing that reliability, bias and corroboration all inter-relate and warned journalists to be aware of their own bias when reporting.