Behind the Story: The benefits of sticking with a story

Photo credit:WUSA 9 It’s hard to keep saying everything is fine when documents prove otherwise. Although the General Services Administration continually denied knowledge of a “death list,” investigative reporter Russ Ptacek discovered the list while working for Kansas City’s KSHB-TV. He continued the investigation at WUSA 9, in Washington, D.C. A GSA employee created the “death list” to…

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Behind the Story: Disproportionate lending by race discovered with data

Photo credit:Joanne Lawton/Washington Business Journal It’s one thing to say African American entrepreneurs are recovering from the economic downturn slower than white entrepreneurs, it’s another to explain why.  That’s what Washington Business Journal reporter Bryant Switzky did using a database from the Small Business Administration and other datasets related to the Community Reinvestment Act. “The…

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Guidelines for dealing with confidential sources

Avoiding landmines when dealing with confidential sources was the focus of one of the panels highlighting a joint workshop held last week by IRE and the Canadian Association of Journalists. More than 90 journalists gathered at the Ryerson University School of Journalism to learn more about key issues facing journalists on both sides of the…

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Piercing the secrecy of private companies

Investigating private companies can stymie even the most dogged reporter. They aren’t subject to Sunshine requests and they don’t file paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But chances are, you can still find out a lot about most of them. Ames Alexander, a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, detailed some of these strategies at…

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Don’t be a stenographer and other tips from a Pulitzer Prize winner

By Mark Horvit, IRE Executive Director Nigel Jaquiss has  a strong but simple message for those who cover local government: “Do not be a stenographer.” Jaquiss, a Pultizer Prize and IRE Award winning reporter for the Willamette Week in Portland, offered a series of recommendations to help those who cover local government do more than…

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Dig into local leaders

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director Reporters should make one to three calls a day to sources whom they don’t need for a deadline story. That’s the most effective way to develop sources who’ll come through for you later with ideas and help, according to Ryan Gabrielson of California Watch. Gabrielson spoke during an IRE…

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Quick fix to tame PDFs

By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching at a computer-assisted reporting boot camp in San Diego. The class had been through spreadsheets and databases, and I was finally demonstrating how to deal with pdf’s. After showing some online options, I walked the class through my old stand-by: XPDF. If…

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Make chronologies easier with TimeFlow

By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director If you’ve ever been involved in an investigative story or in-depth project, you understand how important chronology can be. I’ve often sketched timelines on notebooks, napkins or white boards. For trickier tasks or more data, I’ve turned to Excel, but I’ve never been completely satisfied with how it works.…

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Manage your time for investigative stories

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director Time management can be a reporter’s biggest challenge when it comes to watchdog stories. During a recent Better Watchdog Workshop in Denver, two seasoned investigative journalists shared tips and tricks they’ve learned to make time for the big story. Advice and tips came from Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee…

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Follow the money: Gulf oil spill

By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director While oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the government is pouring resources into the cleanup effort. Track how much is being spent, which agencies are awarding it, and where it’s going with data from the Federal Procurement Data System. The FPDS’s Gulf Oil Spill Report, updated regularly,…

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