Behind the Headlines: A History of Investigative Journalism in Canada.


256 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-19-542733-2
DDC 070.4'30971




Reviewed by Deborah Hicks


In a world of 24-hour news channels and the internet, it is often easy to assume that all of the unbiased facts about a particular news story are known and understood. But the reality is that reporters are working toward deadlines and more often than not are reacting to, as opposed to reporting, the news. Cecil Rosner, in Behind the Headlines: A History of Investigative Journalism in Canada, argues that in some ways modern journalists have forgotten what is at the heart of their profession: finding the truth. And to better understand this core mission, Rosner, a seasoned journalist himself, looks to the previously largely undocumented history of investigative journalism in Canada from its muckraking roots to its current technology-assisted investigations.


Investigative journalism, for Rosner, is not simply one type of reporting. It is a set of journalistic practices that have their origins in the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and liberty. And, as a result, are free from the personal political beliefs of the journalist reporting the story and even from the editorial stance of the news organization for which he or she works. This is well demonstrated as Rosner recounts Andrew McIntosh’s route to breaking what was perhaps one of the largest political scandals in Canadian history: Jean Chrétien and the Shawinigate scandal. Rosner doesn’t simply focus on how McIntosh followed the story from beginning to end; he also details how McIntosh became a journalist. This thorough background work is evident throughout the book and provides Rosner’s reader with a full understanding of how these groundbreaking stories came to be, not only as news stories but also as important parts of Canadian history.

            Throughout the book Rosner provides his reader with deep and well-researched insights into a little known part of Canadian history. Most chapters end with an example of how these past practices are still in use today. These brief flashes of modernity give the reader a moment to reflect on the importance of investigative journalism both in the past and in today’s world.


Rosner, Cecil., “Behind the Headlines: A History of Investigative Journalism in Canada.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,