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Complaints: A road map for killer investigations

By Hannah Schmidt

Jill Riepenhoff, a projects reporter at The Columbus Dispatch, and Tisha Thompson, an investigative reporter for WRC-Washington D.C., use consumer and professional complaints to fuel their investigations. In these audio clips the two reporters offer advice on where to look for complaints and how to use them.

In Columbus, Ohio, landlords allowing homes to become rundown is a major problem. Riepenhoff used complaints from homeowners and court documents to create The Columbus Dispatch’s “Legacy of Neglect” series.

She found the subject of her story, chronic offender Joseph S. Alaura, from court documents. He had gone to court multiple times after allowing his tenants to live in extremely run-down homes.


Riepenhoff said stories on home code violators and "slumlords" can be done in any community. 



Tisha Thompson uses consumer complaints from the Attorney General's office to fuel her investigations. She used these records to create "Under the Hood: The AAMCO Investigation."



Thompson suggested reporters read every page of the complaint for information.



Professional boards offer another set of complaints reporters can use. Thompson said these are a gold mine of information. Professional board disciplinary actions show problems that reporters can turn into stories.



There's more...

Want to use complaints in your next story? Check out tipsheets from Riepenhoff and Thompson.

Are you an Uplink subscriber? Learn more about Ripenhoff’s “Legacy of Neglect” series on IRE Uplink.

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