Tipsheets

Browse more 5,000 tipsheets from our national conferences and Watchdog Workshops on how to cover specific beats, conduct a great interview and learn countless tips on where to find the information you need.

Logged-in members can download any tipsheet, for free. Contact the Resource Center 573-882-3364 or [email protected] for questions.

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  • Make your business stories sing

    Business stories are often rooted in numbers, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. This presentation will provide tips for identifying the characters and anecdotes that fuel compelling storytelling, approaches for cultivating sources and some non-traditional techniques to get records and data about the businesses you are investigating.

    Tags: business reporting; storytelling; anecdotes; characters; source building; financial reporting

    By Anupreeta Das, Alison Young and Lauren Etter

    2019

  • Dig into companies with financial statement shortcuts

    A company's financial statements are meant to communicate to investors how a business works, how successful it has been and what to expect in the future. But rather than stating it outright, the financial statements often require hands-on analysis and careful reading to draw meaningful conclusions. This tipsheet offers several easy shortcuts to spot the types of red flags that can lead to big stories.

    Tags: financial reporting; corporations; financial statements; business reporting; mergers; acquisitions

    By Cara Lombardo

    2019

  • Aiming for impact and dealing with the fallout

    Months of watchdog work ends with compelling journalism, and sometimes also fallout from the subjects the stories are written about or others in your community. In some cases, the reaction means sources you once freely spoke to will no longer talk, or your FOIA requests become waiting games or go unanswered. It can be even more extreme: The subjects of the stories harm themselves or others. How do reporters and editors handle the fallout when the big projects are over? This tipsheet will discuss tips for both reporters and editors who find themselves in similar situations.

    Tags: sources; fallout; reactions

    By R.G. Dunlop, Katrice Hardy and Phil Williams

    2018

  • Pulling of big projects in small(er) newsrooms

    Seeing amazing work being done by pioneers in our industry invigorates and inspires, but when we get back to our newsroom, reality can dampen our excitement. ‘We don’t have the budget’ or ‘We can’t let you take time away from your beat’ or ‘Nobody here even knows where to begin on that’ are common refrains in smaller newsrooms, and frequently mean your great idea is canned before it even has a chance. Alas, there are ways to hack these problems, offer creative solutions to your bosses and even make money for your organization with your idea. From finding developers who can work with you on a budget and structure the project, to gaining buy-in from higher-ups and finding revenue opportunities, this discussion will offer a framework for getting your big idea done.

    Tags: smaller newsroom investigations; budget investigations; big projects

    By Evan Wyloge, Emily Le Coz and Nate Morabito

    2018

  • Mass shooting “contagion” and media coverage: Minimizing the risks

    A growing body of research provides evidence of a disturbing problem: Extensive coverage of mass shootings is a factor in the increasing lethality of these incidents, and it appears to encourage some copycats who crave widespread attention and even fame. Social media sharing of content related to mass shootings, the people who commit them, their names, images, and “manifestos” also seems to increase the likelihood of subsequent mass shootings. Meanwhile, the news media have a responsibility to bear witness to events of public interest and attempt to make sense of the seemingly senseless, hold institutions (including their own) accountable for failures, and examine the psychological and social factors that might help predict and prevent mass shootings. How can the news media do their job while minimizing the potential harms of their coverage? What guidance does the research provide?

    Tags: mass shootings; covering mass shootings; minimize risk; mass shooting contagion

    By Adam Lankford and Katherine Reed

    2018

  • Trumping norms: Tracking the Trump Administration’s conflicts of interest

    Generally, most U.S. Presidents do not ensconce their daughter and son-in-law in White House West Wing offices, nor lease and operate a posh hotel bearing their name just a block from the White House, nor refuse to publicly release their tax returns unlike all other previously-elected presidents since the Watergate scandal. Donald J. Trump has flouted many of the ethical mores of past presidents, including even such basics as facts and truth, according to the Washington Post uttering 3,000 false or misleading statements in just his first 16 months in office. All of which makes tracking the Trump administration’s conflicts of interest and other ethics-related issues an excellent adventure for any reporter and news organization. Meanwhile, public trust in government remains near historic lows in the United States.

    Tags: President Donald Trump; Trump; conflicts of interests; ethical issues; unethical practices

    By Derek Kravitz

    2018

  • Schools without rules

    Three Orlando Sentinel reporters spent six-months investigating Florida’s scholarship programs, which will send nearly $1 billion to private schools this year. The project meant reviewing thousands of pages of documents and making in-person visits to dozens of private schools. The reporters discovered soon-to-be evicted schools set up in rundown buildings, campuses where teachers lacked college degrees, and a principal under investigation for child molestation who was able to keep taking Florida vouchers by closing one school and then opening another under a new name. This behind-the-story session will go through how reporters handled the school visits (most were unannounced), how they requested and organized data (from enrollment numbers to parent complaints sent to the state) and searched for other needed information. They’ll also cover what worked, and what didn’t, as they tried to stay organized while still doing other stories on their beats.

    Tags: school investigation; scholarship programs; Florida; private schools; enrollment

    By Leslie Postal, Beth Kassab and Annie Martin

    2018

  • How to find stories in data through visualization

    Working with data is a kind of interview - it is a complex back-and-forth, drawing out the expressiveness of data. The process is often visual, depending heavily on a sequence of graphical displays, "visualizations." This presentation is from a three-hour workshop that focused on the concepts and skills you need to use data visualization effectively as part of your reporting practice - to conduct a data interview. Learn how to spot trends, highlight changes over time, identify outliers, make meaningful comparisons, and describe important patterns in your data - all through the effective use of visualization strategies.

    Tags: r; data; visualization

    By Alberto Cairo

    2018

  • Accountability reporting for Native American communities

    Native Americans make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population, and belong to more than 500 federally recognized tribes, often making for a hard-to-reach yet diverse population to cover. In most cases, tribes also have close relationships with federal agencies, which are obligated to provide or fund a range of services on reservations as the result of treaties or other agreements. And this means there are almost always documents and data for reporters to obtain for stories --if you know what you’re looking for and can work past the challenges.

    Tags: native americans; community; population; accountability

    By Mary Hudetz

    2018

  • Which chart should I use, and why? Information design for the human brain!

    Explore how research into the ways people estimate numbers will change how you think about choosing charts to tell your stories. And, no, it doesn't mean everything is a bar chart. This slideshow also discuss your problem charts and brainstorm improvements. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vROVkoZ2RNpQ6HI57ZC_zUcyIMW9a_3tO4RJsKmtjDKATg_i3E6gwi6-TUo0Z8GpjwKC8ZXBlYC3J7N/pub?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000&slide=id.p

    Tags: graphs; charts; visualization

    By Darla Cameron; Anna Flagg

    2018