IRE Conference Blog

Investigating political shenanigans

By Kolten Parker

Manny Garcia, of El Nuevo Herald, speaks during a panel entitled Investigating political shenanigans. Photo: Travis Hartman

Journalists eager to scoop political scandals should get out of the office and state house and into the bar.

A panel of three reporters with experience exposing political shenanigans shared advice and downplayed the notion that investigative stories always begin with an isolated journalist buried in chest-high stacks of financial reports.

Jay Root, a reporter for the Texas Tribune who followed Texas Governor Rick Perry on his failed presidential run last year, shared advice he was given as a young reporter at the Houston Post: “I’ve gotten a lot more stories in bars than in meetings.”

Manny Garcia, executive editor of the El Nuevo Herald, agreed with Root that getting out of the office and interacting with individuals on a particular beat is the best way to unearth political sketchiness.

Garcia described the reporting behind a Pulitzer-winning series on voter fraud at the Miami Herald, with leads coming from campaign flyers, Instagram and financial disclosures.

“Cover your beat, be involved and spend time with the candidates and their employees,” Garcia said.

Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, shared websites such as http://sunlightfoundation.com/ and http://www.followthemoney.org/ to navigate political donations, personal financial disclosures and subsidies.

Kolten Parker is a journalism student at Texas State University and reports on politics for the San Antonio Express-News. Follow on Twitter @KoltenParker.

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