By Kyle Deas
Graduate Student, University of Missouri
With spring sweeps here and the summer fast approaching, the enterprising broadcast reporter may be on the lookout for ways to make a splash. Here are a few ideas and resources for investigative stories with high public interest and a quick turnaround.
Boating accidents: If you live in an area where the summer means wake-boarding or fishing, then be sure to get your hands on NICAR's recently-updated boat accident database. It's a great resource for breaking news stories - you can instantly put recent accidents in a broader context. But once you dig around in the data you may find enough material for a stand-alone story, especially if you can figure out how your town or county stacks up against similar areas. And who knows - if you can introduce boat safety into the local conversation, you might even prevent an accident or two.
Risky Roller-coasters: Do you know how safe your nearest amusement park is? If you don't, then it's likely that your readers don't, either. Request copies of the amusement park inspections from the state and make sure your local parks aren't putting their visitors at undue risk. Tisha Thompson, an Emmy-award winning Investigative Reporter for WTTG-Washington DC, wrote in a tip-sheet for IRE that "you'll be stunned at some of the stuff that goes wrong on your favorite roller-coasters."
Fishing for stories in your local government: Which department in your city has had the biggest budget increase over the last five years? Who in the city government has the largest expense account? How about the biggest cell phone bill? What are they buying with their city-issued credit cards? And are you sure - really sure - that your elected officials are paying their taxes? If you don't know, maybe you should find out.
Crumbling Bridges: Dive into NICAR's comprehensive bridge-inspection database and see if there are any in your area that are overdue for repairs or replacement. Then, sit your local elected officials down and make them tell you what - if anything - is being done about it.
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes often turn out to be shoddy or downright abusive facilities. In many areas, you won't even need to file a request for the inspection reports - they're often automatically posted online. Once you find a home with egregious or repeat offenses, figure out who owns it and get in touch with some former patients.