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Investigative Business Journalism by Alec Klein
 

Investigative Business Journalism by Alec Klein

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Northwestern University journalism professor Alec Klein discusses the process of creating investigative business journalism projects. For more information, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

Northwestern University journalism professor Alec Klein discusses the process of creating investigative business journalism projects. For more information, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

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    Investigative Business Journalism by Alec Klein Investigative Business Journalism by Alec Klein Presentation Transcript

    • Investigative Business Journalism
      Presented by
      Alec Klein
      Professor, Medill School of Journalism
      Northwestern University
      May 7, 2010
    • About Me
      Alec Klein, who joined the faculty of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism last fall, is an award-winning investigative business journalist and bestselling author
    • Ideas
      Generating ideas and executing them while covering your beat
    • Conceiving investigative stories
      To begin with, you need PHOAM
      P:assion
      H:ook
      O:riginality
      A:ccess
      M:arket
      Image by flickr user marttj
    • The Best Ideas
      They usually come from beats
      That’s because they’re organic. They arise naturally in the course of reporting
      To wit: Secret bonuses at City Hall
      The anonymous tipster on AOL
      Image by flickr user MonkeyMike
    • Have a Starting Point
      This is not the same thing as a preconceived notion
      Rather: Consider a set of questions that need answering
      To wit: When cigarettes are under attack, why are cigars being glamorized? (Yachting magazine)
    • How to confirm the idea
      Let’s say you think you’ve hit on a
      great idea
      How do you check it out to
      make sure it’s uncharted territory?
      Lexis-Nexis
      Factiva
      Amazon
      Google
      The overriding question: Has it been done before?
    • The Big Problem: Feeding Beast
      But who has time to pursue investigative business stories, especially when you’re on a busy beat and your editor is breathing down your neck to file early and often?
    • The Ugly Truth: Rebellion—within reason
      Get out of the office: kill or be killed
      Cub reporter: worked on vacations—only time the editors couldn’t assign stories
      Worked on weekends
      Worked afterhours, after the proverbial smoked cleared from the daily deadlines
      Bottom-line: find time
    • The Wall Street Journal way
      Darwinian approach: only the fittest will get on Page One
      In the old days: Only three stories on Page One
      Lot of reporters, few A1 slots
      Mistake: Walk into your editor’s office with an ill-conceived idea
    • What Not to Do
      Such as: I’d like to do an investigation of poverty
      Many a times: Bludgeoned in editor’s office
      Finally figured out: Need to do some research before entering the torture chamber
      But how much research?
    • The Solution
      About 20 percent
      That’s enough to tell you if you’ve got a story or whether you’re going to spin your wheels
      The 20 percent:
      What’s the story?
      A new trend?
      A twist on an old idea?
      How will you report it and how long will it take?
    • Avoid This Mistake
      Mistake: Never show editors your raw notes
      Made that mistake on AOL
      Editor: Don’t get it, nothing here. Go back to work
    • The Power of the Memo
      Then Enron happened
      Editors: What was Alec working on?
      This time: I wrote a memo
      Set free for a year
    • Spinning Your Wheels
      Having a year to do an investigative business story sounds better than it is
      You better come up with a great piece
      Can you withstand making no progress for several weeks at a time?
      Maybe inbred
    • Clarity of Purpose
      Back to the memo
      It clarifies the issues. It makes editors see. They can print it. They can ruminate over it. They can forward it by e-mail to their bosses. Then they can approve it
    • When All Else Fails
      Let’s say your editors still say no
      Then what?
      Set your own agenda
    • The New Model
      The old model: the three-part series that took a year to report and runs in December in time for the Pulitzer entries
      The new model: write episodically
      WSJ did this: Word was sent out at the beginning of the year—let’s write about death
      The episodic approach, it’s the way of the world: The economy, the industry. Investigative reporting is expensive
    • The Episodic Approach
      Build on your beat coverage
      Think this way: once a month, craft a great piece of investigative reporting on the same subject
      Over a year, you’ll end up with 12 pieces that amount to a worthy in-depth investigation into a single topic
    • Examples of the episodic approach
      The Las Vegas Sun, most notably including the reporting of Alexandra Berzon, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for public service, for a series of stories about the high death rate of construction workers on the Las Vegas strip. See www.pulitzer.org
      Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post, 2008,
      for international reporting, for his episodic
      stories about private security contractors
      Kevin Helliker and Thomas M. Burton of The
      Wall Street Journal, 2004 for their episodic
      stories about aneurysms
    • Questions?
      Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com
    • Interviewing techniques
      How to get people to open up
    • Columbo
      I was accused of being like this
      We’re supposed to not know
      Have them condescend to you
      “Treat me like a fifth grader”
      Don’t have an ego about this
      Need to be absolutely sure to write authoritatively
    • The Dumbest Question in Journalism History
      New at WSJ
      Ordered to write lead news story
      IBM
      Earnings
      Sweat
      Call analyst: What’s P&L?
      Cancel subscription
    • Ask the Obvious Question
      You may know the answer already
      To wit: How old are you?
      Answer: 51
      Thought 52
      Yeah, actually 52
      If small lie, is there a bigger lie
    • Continue Reporting in 11th Hour
      AOL series: Almost a year into it
      Had hundreds of confidential documents
      Had well-placed sources
      Editor called me into his office
      Mused: Wouldn’t it be nice …
      Vice president of finance
    • Corollary to Reporting in 11th hour
      Ask the same question five times
      But in different ways
      At different times
      To wit: Do you know a vice president-level finance guy who had raised questions about AOL’s finances?
    • The Notebook
      When to use the notebook
      Versus
      When not to use the notebook
      When to tape record vs.
      When not to tape record
      Billionaire: I want to be able to deny I had this conversation
    • Thinking on Multiple Levels
      During the interview, you need to think about several things at the same time:
      The lede
      The images to capture
      The details to portray
      Is this the first of many interviews or a one-shot deal?
      Why, why, why?
      The cosmic point
      Follow up questions
    • Let Them Yell
      When people say you got it wrong, that you made a mistake, check it out thoroughly
      Sometimes, it can help
      Red Hat
      The Reluctant Interviewee
      What do you do when they won’t talk?
      Options:
      Call
      E-mail
      Letter
      Certified letter: know they got it, but act of war?
      Intermediary: someone they know
    • The Cardinal Rules
      Take chances
      Bridgestone/Firestone
      Don’t take no for an answer
      Surgeon General
      Go there
      Gettysburg
      Last Words of Advice
      Bob Woodward
      Show up early
      Me
      Show up late
    • Part Two: Developing sources
      When starting a new investigative business story, where do you begin?
      The onion: otherwise known as the circling effect
      Begin on the outside, work your way in:
      Family
      Friends
      Friends of friends
      Customers
      Suppliers
      Competitors
      Unions
      Associations
      Former employees
      Current employees
      Secretaries
      Executives
    • Meet People on their Own Turf
      At their homes
      Afterhours
      On weekends
      Away from places where they are monitored or overheard
      At bars
      Restaurants
      Bowling alleys
      Places Where People Network:
      Conventions
      Industry gatherings
      Trade shows
      Exchange business cards
      Socialize
      Network
    • Don’t forget about the gadflies
      Yes, they can be a bit odd
      But they often know their stuff because they have no other life
      Don’t Dismiss the PR People
      Example: secret bonuses
      But also: AT&T cable assets
      “You didn’t ask the right question”
      Image by flickr user Meg Marco
    • It’s All About the Spider Web
      Example:
      Anonymous
      tipster:
      “How did you find me?”
    • Horizontal vs. Vertical Reporting
    • Getting Secrets
      No secret
      It takes time
      Trust
      Willingness to protect sources
      Are you willing to go to jail for them?
    • Bartering for Information
      Exchange of information
      Once you have information they want, then you become valuable
      You have something to barter
      As long as it’s not confidential information
    • Background vs. Off the Record
      Define the terms
      Explain why it’s important to go on the record
      Move sources up the ladder
      Off the record
      On background
      On the record
      Sometimes, refuse to go off the record: why?
      It can tie your hands
    • Beware of Agreements
      Reading back quotes?
      Showing stories pre publication
    • My Rule
      Do we let sources go? Do we let them change their minds?
      My opinion: Let sources go
      Example: AOL
    • Another Cardinal Rule
      No surprises
      Always let them know what’s going on, even if it works against you
      Better for them to be angry at you before publication than after, when it’s too late
      AOL
      21-page single-spaced letter
      Credit raters
      Removed lead anecdote even though information obtained independently
    • Go Back to Your Sources
      Repeatedly
      A Woodward technique
      You need to know when you can trust your sources
      Eg.: Whether FTC would approve AOL-Time Warner merger
      Origins: Editor: Woodward was a new reporter, too
      FTC threatens pre publication: Last story you’ll write
      Sources at the heart of the secret
    • Questions?
      Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com
    • Using public documents
      What documents to look for and where to find them
    • The Secret
      The secret to investigative business reporting is…
      Start with:
      Google
      Lexis-Nexis
      Factiva
    • Everything You Need to Know
      You don’t need to know where all the public documents are
      You need to know what questions to ask to find them
      To wit: 192.com
    • Hidden Depositions
      Baltimore Sun investigation: Supermarket bankruptcy
      Words of wise editor: “The good reporters know what’s missing”
      Thinking: I never know what’s missing
      Did you check for hidden depositions?
      Not in court record: wads of cash in
      brown paper bags
      Before the jump on A1
    • SEC Filings
      What are they?
      Where do you get them?
      Sec.gov
      Company Web site
    • SEC Filings
      10k
      10 Q: What’s the first thing to look for?
      Proxy: What’s the first thing to look for?
      SEC public filings only go so far
      What is considered “material” to investors?
      Material: Any information related to a particular business that might be relevant to an investor's decision to buy, sell or hold a security
      A company can slice its business into small sectors that don’t require disclosure
      To wit: AOL
    • New Age Documents: Alec’s Facebook Page
    • Lawsuits: What You Can Find
      Former employees
      Sworn testimony
      Copies of contracts
      Business strategy
      Where to find lawsuits
      State and federal suits
      Many online
      If not online, check Lexis-Nexis
      If not there, check Pacer for federal suits
      http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov (not free)
      Pulling documents
      Big issue?
      Money
    • Bankruptcy Filings
      Goldmine
      Pacer
      For what?
      Creditors; assets; debts; lawyers; suppliers; vendors
      Key kinds?
      Chapter 7: liquidation
      Chapter 11: reorganization
    • Government Filings
      SEC
      FCC
      FDA
      Key: on almost every investigative business story, there is a government body that has some connection to it
      Congressional Testimony
      Contradictions
      Remember the tobacco executives who claimed they didn’t know anything about the addictive power of cigarettes?
    • Company Documents
      Company e-mail
      Internal newsletters
      Get on the mailing list, if possible
      Remember: Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t break into computer system
      Chiquita Banana case
      Wall Street analyst reports
    • Local Government Records
      Property records:
      County or other local office
      Many online
      Good to check for:
      Size, details of executive’s home
      Other great resources:
      Planning department
      Zoning
      Construction
      Driver records
      Depends on state; eg. Maryland, need permission of driver for records
    • Private Company Records
      Better Business Bureau
      Consumer complaints
      Uniform Commercial Code
      State records, secretary of state usually; shows who has borrowed money, what used as collateral, etc.
      Incorporation records
      Usually secretary of state; records of founding of the business; who owns it; its executives; etc.
      Hoovers
      Hoovers.com
    • Nonprofits
      Can get detailed tax filings—990s—of their finances from the nonprofits themselves
      Or try Guidestar at www.guidestar.org
    • Web Sites
      Airplane ownership search
      Landings.com
      Finding lawyers
      Martindale.com
      Message boards, blogs
      Web site ownership
      http://www.whois.sc/
      Internet archive: old Web sites
      www.archive.org
      ProfNet: e-mail queries for experts
      www.profnet.com
    • Locating People
      Referenceusa.com
      Superpages.com
      AnyWho.com
      Switchboard.com
      Infobel.com: international directory
      AutoTrack and other pay Sites:
      Expensive
      Metered
      Even at The Washington Post: key holder
      But good resource for information for investigative or beat reporting
      Personal information: telephone numbers
      Neighbors
      Legal judgments
    • Political Contributions
      Opensecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics
      Tray.com: Political Moneyline
      Publicintegrity.org: Center for Public Integrity
      Followthemoney.org: The Institute on Money in State Politics
      Lobbyists and Other Legislative Resources:
      http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fara: lobbying on behalf of foreign entities
      Congressional Research Service: http://www.opencrs.com
      GAO Reports: www.gao.gov
      Thomas Web site: http://thomas.loc.gov/: basic legislation, Congressional reports and records
    • Backgrounding an individual
      www.reporter.org/desktop/tips/johndoe.htm
      Born, married, died
      Previous addresses, relatives, associates
      Lawsuits, bankruptcies, divorce, criminal, traffic
      Home phone
      Attended college
      Real estate
      Etc.
      Courtesy of Duff Wilson of The New York Times
      Truth About Criminal Records:
      There is a national criminal record database but it is not available to the public
      FBI database
      Public access to criminal records controlled at the state level
      Each state has different rules about who may access records and what records will be available
      Some records handled at the county level
    • Freedom of Information Act
      FOIA: the good and the bad
      Secret bonuses
      “Oh, that bonus”
      Reprocessors
      List of reprocessors
      No List
      List
      Names missing from list
      Beware:
      They might leave stuff out
      Of fishing expeditions
      Of unexpected costs
      Sample FOIA letters: www.nfoic.org/sample-foia-letters
      FOIA letter generator: www.rcfp.org/foialetter/index.php
    • The Best Documents
    • Secret Documents
      Not public
      They may say “Confidential”
      You need to interpret, analyze, translate
    • They Don’t Say “Smoking Gun”
    • Questions?
      Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com
    • Case study
      AOL investigation at The Washington Post
    • What it was about
      How I discovered how AOL inflated its advertising revenue to pull off the biggest merger in U.S. history to create the largest media company in the world
    • The beginning
      Summer of 2001
      Sitting at my desk
      Not much going on
      Phone rang
      Anonymous tipster
    • The mystery
      Didn’t give his name or number
      Just told me: An AOL executive had been suspended
      PurchasePro
      Las Vegas dot-com
      Red flag: Gambling & dot-coms
    • Confirmation
      Checked with sources; confirmed
      Had to do with accounting
      Not sure what
      Waltzed over to my editors, surprised that I wanted to write a story
      Buried deep in the business section of The Washington Post: E5
      Not even my mother reads that far
    • Intrigue
      Nobody paid attention
      Before Enron
      Accounting scandals, not a big story—yet
      Still, intrigued
      Why was AOL official suspended?
      Who was PurchasePro?
      What was the accounting issue?
    • Digging
      Did what any reporter would do
      Started calling around
      Would call one person who would tell me to call someone else
      That someone else would tell me to call so-and-so
      So-and-so would tell me to call three other people
    • The breakthrough
      Eventually, I called one person
      “Hi, my name is Alec Klein, and I’m a reporter at The Washington Post”
      Before I could say anything else: “How did you find me?”
      Didn’t know I had found anyone until he said those very words
      Then I realized: found my anonymous tipster
    • Dingy hotels, bad restaurants
      Other doors opened
      Met more people
      Wasn’t glamorous
      Dingy hotel lobbies
      Bad restaurants where they wouldn’t be seen with a Washington Post reporter
    • One unnamed hotel
      Spent a lot of time in one particular hotel lobby
      Used public telephone
      So my calls couldn’t be traced back to The Washington Post
      Sources were afraid of being seen or heard talking to a Washington Post reporter
      AOL was notorious for being more secretive than the Pentagon
    • Strange looks
      Always in that hotel lobby
      Shoes shined
      Reading the paper
      Had cell phone latched to belt, but was always using the public telephone
      Would ask for change in the gift shop
      Strange looks
      Hotel thought: drug dealer
    • Jigsaw puzzle
      Story began to come together like a jigsaw puzzle
      Began to amass confidential documents
      Didn’t say “Smoking Gun” on them
      But pattern emerged
      AOL had been inflating its advertising revenue to pull off the biggest merger in U.S. history to create the largest media company in the world
    • The illusion
      AOL created the illusion of significant advertising revenue in part through questionable accounting practices
      For example: AOL legal case, turned it into ad revenue
      AOL sold ads on behalf of eBay but AOL booked the sales as its own
    • The largest merger ever
      Deals helped AOL clinch its historic merger with Time Warner
      If AOL had revealed some of its financial weakness, Time Warner could have pulled out of the deal
    • 11th hour
      After nearly year, my editor called me into office
      Wouldn’t it be nice…
      Should’ve run for the hills
      Vice president of finance?
      Ask question five times
    • We had to be right
      As far as we knew, never before had a newspaper pointed the finger at a major company’s finances
      Usually a whistleblower
      Or company comes clean
      If we were wrong by an inch, all over
    • The letter
      Before my stories ran, wrote a 21-page, single-spaced letter, presenting AOL with my findings to give the company an opportunity to respond
      Included everything
      Such as: hair plants imported from South America
      Bumped into Dick Parsons in the AOL lobby
      Hadn’t even noticed him
    • The media killer
      AOL ballistic
      High-powered law firm to kill stories
      Lead attorney known as the media killer
      Successful in fighting the media on other big stories
      Involved in the famous case where 60 Minutes was prevented from airing a story about a tobacco whistleblower, which became the subject of the movie, The Insider
    • Called into the office
      Pretty nervous
      Told girlfriend, now mother of my children, that this might be the last story I ever write
      Len Downie: called into his office
      Didn’t actually talk about anything
      Smiled at each other
      Just wanted to know who was this reporter causing this ruckus
    • The meeting
      AOL and its lawyers came to The Washington Post
      Why my stories should be killed
      Heading to the meeting: bumped into the managing editor in the middle of the newsroom
      Looked at me in utter shock
      Had shaved
      Was wearing a tie
      Shirt buttoned all the way to the top
    • Smoking with Fidel
      Managing editor: “You look like a defendant”
      He was right
      Can’t discuss details of meeting
      But can tell this:
      Len Downie talked about smoking cigars with Fidel Castro. That set the tone
    • How Gerald Ford got his job
      Another thing: Meeting was held in the main newsroom conference room
      On one wall, an old print plate: “Nixon Resigns”
      On opposite wall, a framed classified ad, showing a picture of Gerald Ford
      “I got my job through The Washington Post”
    • Jaws of death
      Suffice it to say, The Washington Post didn’t back down
      Newspaper went ahead and published my stories
      Day of the first story, AOL’s chief operating officer was forced to resign
      Call from an AOL official: Congrats. Jaws of death
    • The denouement
      Within days, AOL confirmed the SEC had launched an investigation into AOL’s accounting as a result of my stories
      Then the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation because of my stories
      Then AOL admitted it had improperly booked $49 million in ad revenue
      Then: $190 million
    • Prison
      AOL was forced to revise two years of its financial results
      Head of its business affairs division was locked out of his office and fired
      Business affairs division that was the focus of my investigation was disbanded
      Others went to jail
    • The end of AOL
      Ultimately, the company was forced to pay more than half a billion dollars to settle civil and criminal allegations
      They even removed AOL from company name
      No longer: AOL Time Warner
      Just: Time Warner
    • Journalism of compassion
      A term I invented to guide my reporting
      Fair checking
      Another term I invented
      Put yourself in their shoes
      Is it fair?
      Different than: Is it accurate?
      To wit: The paunch
    • Letting sources go
      AOL investigation
      Threatening letters
      Sources run for the hills
      Track them down
      Beg
      Grovel
      But can’t threaten
      Can’t coerce
      Only: Do what’s right
    • Organizing
      Presenting investigations on multiple platforms
    • Organize From the Beginning
      Develop your own system
      Be your own best secretary
      It’s not glamorous but someone has to do it
      Keeping track of mounds of documents, notepads, calls—need to be organized
      My system:
      Daily log
      Phone log
      Contact list
      Cork board
      Visualize key players
      Calendar
      Themes
    • The Perennial Problem
      The lede:
      Hours or days or weeks of anguish
      Blood on the computer
      Should’ve done something else
      Work with hands
      Like a farmer
    • Good Ledes
      LAS VEGAS -- Chastity Ferguson kept watch over four sleepy children late one Friday as she flipped a pack of corn dogs into a cart at her new favorite grocery store: Wal-Mart.
      The Wal-Mart Supercenter, a pink stucco box twice as big as a Home Depot, combines a full-scale supermarket with the usual discount mega-store. For the 26-year-old Ferguson, the draw is simple.
      "You can't beat the prices," said the hotel cashier, who makes $400 a week. "I come here because it's cheap."
      Image by flickr user Lone Primate
    • What Makes This Lede Work?
      Classic anecdotal lede
      Simple, straight forward
      Nothing fancy about it
      Quote that gets to the heart of the story: “You can’t beat the prices”
      We can do this
      The Los Angeles Times; that’s the lede from a series that won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting
    • Trick to Ledes
      Me in the old days: Frantically flipping through notebook searching for the lede
      Not there
      Me now: Report the lede beforehand so you don’t have to search for it later in your notes
      To wit: Lede to Stealing Time--grumpy old man
      WSJ approach to ledes:
      All about the purity of the lede
      Must be exactly on point
      Not sort of the point
      Joke:
      Colon
      Question mark
      Pithy-sentence lede
    • When You’re Still Overwhelmed
      KISS
      Keep
      It
      Simple
      Stupid
    • Overlooked: Tone
      Okay, enough about the torture of writing
      Here’s an overlooked aspect of writing:
      Tone
      The sound of the story
      Rarely is it premeditated
      It should be
      THE BOY LOVES GAMES OF CHANCE. He loves slot machines and playing cards and instant-win lottery tickets. He learned at an early age to count coins, and to bet them. He learned in the hospital that money comes in get-well cards.
      Lisa Pollak’s story
      Baltimore Sun
      Winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing
    • A Tone Technique
      Read a book or other story that reflects what you’re doing
      To wit: Writing about the civil war
      Read the classic, Killer Angels
      Wrote lede to reenactment of the Gettysburg Battle
      Using old English
      Should’ve mentioned
      it to my editors
    • Mastering the Information
      Let’s Get Down to the Nitty Gritty:
      Organizing the investigative business story
      How I do it:
      Divide by interviewee
      Annotate my own notes
      Develop a detailed outline from the notes
      Review and re-review the notes
      Can take days—or weeks
      But you have a roadmap
    • The Cosmic Point
      The nut: everyone knows the nut, right?
      How about the so-what graf:
      Otherwise known, at least to me, as the cosmic point
      The reason why we’re reading your story
      Examples:
      Greed
      Hubris
      Ambition
      The To-Be-Sure Clause:
      Wall Street Journal thing
      The exception to the rule, or the trend
      Up high
      To immunize yourself
      Because there’s always an exception
    • Time to Respond
      Give the company or individual plenty of time to react and respond
      Not enough to call the night before
      Call, e-mail, stop by—and repeatedly
      To wit: AOL
      Six weeks, an eternity
      Risk: story leaks to competitors
      But must be done
    • The New World Order
      One of my last Washington Post investigations in 2008:
      Military contracting
      In desert in suit (not a good idea)
      Carrying notepad
      Digital camera
      Camcorder
    • Photography for Multimedia
      Everything I know about photography, I owe to Steve Liss, who taught me:
      Now, we are all photographers
      When you’re shooting, take a lot of pictures—at least 100 images
      Camera is your notepad
      Record moments as they unfold
      Don’t wait for the perfect moment
      The first way you view a scene is not always the best
      Try different shooting angles
      Eye level
      From above on a chair
      From below on the floor
      Look for the inherent logic of the shot;
      eg,. a shot of giant might be better from a higher angle
      Don’t shoot everything from a wide angle
      Look for other opportunities, such as close-ups, which can have more impact
      Imagine, say, an expressive face
    • Audio
      We’re now all in the business of gathering audio
      Online audio stories
      Online audio with photos—slideshows
      All you need:
      A digital camera
      A digital recorder that can connect to a computer to download audio files
      Audio Slideshows:
      You need to show how the story begins
      How the subject gets from point A to B to C
      Show in the photos what the audio is telling
      The photos must match the audio
      So take lots of pictures
      Helps to ensure that images match sound
      Usually: you don’t want a single image to linger onscreen for more than 10 seconds
      For a three-minute slideshow, plan for at least 18 photos
    • Kinds of Sound
      There are two kinds of sound
      Natural sound, or “nats”
      For a slideshow, you usually need natural sound—eg., the sound of bacon frying in the background, the roar of the crowd
      Turn on the recorder, point it at the natural sound and capture a lot of it
      May help later during editing to bridge sections of your audio story
      Interviews
      Beware of loud background sound
      Move interview subject away from that noise
      Hold the recorder close to the subject, within a foot and a half
      Avoid talking over the interviewee: “Uh huh” et al
      If necessary: Nod head
      Beware of wind
      Stay away from yes or no questions
      Ask open-ended questions:
      Why?
    • Video Basic Rules
      We are all videographers now
      Use a variety of focal lengths and angles
      Establishing shot, wide, tells the viewer where the story is taking place
      Medium shot: takes the viewer closer to the action
      Tight: close up
      No zooms or pans
      Shoot and move: Zoom with your feet
      Limit motion of the camera; use set shots
    • Video Rules
      The rule of thirds: Divide the screen into thirds, with subject taking up one of the thirds—more visually arresting
      Rule of 180 degrees
      Which way is the subject’s nose pointing?
      Stay on that side
      Don’t switch sides
      Disorients viewer
      Jump Cuts:
      Common mistake
      Two things don’t match visually
      To wit: Person is in one spot; in the next frame, he magically jumps to another spot
      One way to avoid jump cuts: have person or action come into and out of frame before moving on
    • Final Phase: Fair Check
      Walk away from the story
      Put yourself in the subject’s shoes
      Is it fair?
      Go through the story line by line
      Different than fact checking; it’s all in the nuances
    • The Story Doesn’t Belong to You
      The story may carry your name but it belongs to the paper, Web site, television station
      It’s a communal project; must get buy in; editors must be on board
      Must be willing to let go of the language; be amenable to change
      One third of the investigative business story is the reporting
      Another third is the writing
      The final third is the in-house hurdles
    • Questions?
      Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com