Presented	
  by	
  
Alec	
  Klein	
  
Professor,	
  Medill	
  School	
  of	
  Journalism	
  
Northwestern	
  University	
 ...
¡ The	
  secret	
  to	
  
investigative	
  
business	
  
reporting	
  is…	
  
¡ Start	
  with:	
  
§ Lexis-­‐
Nexis	
  ...
¡ You	
  don’t	
  need	
  to	
  know	
  where	
  all	
  
the	
  public	
  documents	
  are.	
  
¡ You	
  need	
  to	
  k...
¡  Baltimore	
  Sun	
  investigation:	
  Supermarket	
  
bankruptcy	
  
¡  Words	
  of	
  wise	
  editor:	
  “The	
  goo...
¡ What	
  are	
  they?	
  
¡ Where	
  do	
  you	
  get	
  them?	
  
§ SEC's	
  Edgar	
  
§ Company	
  website	
  
¡  10-­‐K	
  
¡  10-­‐Q:	
  What’s	
  the	
  first	
  
thing	
  to	
  look	
  for?	
  
¡  Proxy:	
  What’s	
  the	
  firs...
Check	
  out	
  Robin	
  
Phillips’	
  webinar	
  
on	
  LinkedIn,	
  
sourcing	
  through	
  
social	
  networking	
  
at...
¡  Former	
  employees	
  
¡  Sworn	
  testimony	
  
¡  Copies	
  of	
  contracts	
  
¡  Business	
  strategy	
  
¡  ...
¡  Gold	
  mine	
  
§ Pacer	
  
¡  For	
  what?	
  
§ Creditors,	
  assets,	
  debts,	
  lawyers,	
  
suppliers,	
  ve...
¡  SEC	
  
¡  FCC	
  
¡  FDA	
  
§  Key:	
  on	
  almost	
  every	
  
investigative	
  business	
  
story,	
  there	
 ...
¡  Company	
  email	
  
¡  Internal	
  newsletters	
  
§ Get	
  on	
  the	
  mailing	
  list,	
  if	
  possible.	
  
¡...
¡  Property	
  records:	
  
§ County	
  or	
  other	
  
local	
  office	
  
§ Many	
  online	
  
§ Good	
  to	
  check	
...
¡  Better	
  Business	
  Bureau	
  
§  Consumer	
  complaints	
  
	
  
¡  Uniform	
  Commercial	
  Code	
  
§  State	
...
¡ Can	
  get	
  detailed	
  tax	
  filings—
990s—of	
  their	
  finances	
  from	
  
the	
  nonprofits	
  themselves	
  
¡ ...
¡  Airplane-­‐ownership	
  
search	
  
§  Landings.com	
  
¡  Finding	
  lawyers	
  
§  Martindale.com	
  
¡  Message...
¡  Referenceusa.com	
  
¡  Superpages.com	
  
¡  AnyWho.com	
  
¡  Switchboard.com	
  
¡  Infobel.com:	
  
internatio...
¡  Opensecrets.org:	
  
Center	
  for	
  Responsive	
  
Politics	
  
¡  Tray.com:	
  Political	
  
Moneyline	
  
¡  Pub...
¡  www.reporter.org/desktop/
tips/johndoe.htm	
  
§  Born,	
  married,	
  died	
  
§  Previous	
  addresses,	
  
relati...
¡  FOIA:	
  the	
  good	
  and	
  the	
  
bad	
  
§  Secret	
  bonuses	
  
§  “Oh,	
  that	
  bonus”	
  
§  Reprocesso...
¡ Not	
  public	
  
¡ They	
  may	
  say	
  “Confidential.”	
  
¡ You	
  need	
  to	
  interpret,	
  
analyze,	
  transl...
¡ Please	
  feel	
  free	
  to	
  contact	
  me	
  
at	
  alecklein@gmail.com.	
  
Investigative Business Journalism - Finding and Using Public Documents by Alec Klein
Investigative Business Journalism - Finding and Using Public Documents by Alec Klein
Investigative Business Journalism - Finding and Using Public Documents by Alec Klein
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Investigative Business Journalism - Finding and Using Public Documents by Alec Klein

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Alec Klein, an award-winning investigative journalist and Northwestern University professor, presents tips for accessing and utilizing public documents in investigative projects during the free, full-day workshop, "Finding Your Best Investigative Business Story."

This training event was hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and the the SPJ Madison Pro Chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sept. 28, 2013.

For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit http://businessjournalism.org.

For more tips on how to develop investigative business journalism stories, please visit http://bit.ly/investigativebiz2013.

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Investigative Business Journalism - Finding and Using Public Documents by Alec Klein

  1. 1. Presented  by   Alec  Klein   Professor,  Medill  School  of  Journalism   Northwestern  University   Madison,  Wis.,  Sept.  28,  2013   What  documents  to  look  for  and  where  to  find  them  
  2. 2. ¡ The  secret  to   investigative   business   reporting  is…   ¡ Start  with:   § Lexis-­‐ Nexis   § Google  
  3. 3. ¡ 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  
  4. 4. ¡  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  
  5. 5. ¡ What  are  they?   ¡ Where  do  you  get  them?   § SEC's  Edgar   § Company  website  
  6. 6. ¡  10-­‐K   ¡  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  
  7. 7. Check  out  Robin   Phillips’  webinar   on  LinkedIn,   sourcing  through   social  networking   at   http:// businessjournalism .org/2012/02/29/ getting-­‐linkedin-­‐ sourcing-­‐through-­‐ social-­‐networking-­‐ self-­‐guided-­‐ training/.      
  8. 8. ¡  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  
  9. 9. ¡  Gold  mine   § Pacer   ¡  For  what?   § Creditors,  assets,  debts,  lawyers,   suppliers,  vendors   ¡  Key  kinds?   § Chapter  7:  liquidation   § Chapter  11:  reorganization  
  10. 10. ¡  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?  
  11. 11. ¡  Company  email   ¡  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  
  12. 12. ¡  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;  e.g.,   Maryland,  need  permission   of  driver  for  records  
  13. 13. ¡  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,  including  who  owns  it,  its  executives,  etc.     §  Reynolds  guide  to  where  to  find  them  in  50  states   ¡  Hoovers:  Hoovers.com   ¡  OpenCorporates.com:  company  records  from  75   jurisdictions  around  the  world  
  14. 14. ¡ Can  get  detailed  tax  filings— 990s—of  their  finances  from   the  nonprofits  themselves   ¡ Or  try  Guidestar  at   www.guidestar.org  
  15. 15. ¡  Airplane-­‐ownership   search   §  Landings.com   ¡  Finding  lawyers   §  Martindale.com   ¡  Message  boards,  blogs     ¡  Website  ownership   §  http://www.whois.sc/   ¡  Internet  archive:  old   websites   §  www.archive.org   ¡  HARO:   Helpa   ReporterOut.com   ¡  ProfNet:  email  queries   for  experts.   §  www.profnet.com  
  16. 16. ¡  Referenceusa.com   ¡  Superpages.com   ¡  AnyWho.com   ¡  Switchboard.com   ¡  Infobel.com:   international   directory   ¡  Lexis  and  other  pay   sites:   §  Expensive   §  Even  at  The  Washington   Post:  key  holder   §  But  good  resource  for   investigative  or  beat   reporting   ▪  Personal  information:   telephone  numbers   ▪  Neighbors   ▪  Legal  judgments  
  17. 17. ¡  Opensecrets.org:   Center  for  Responsive   Politics   ¡  Tray.com:  Political   Moneyline   ¡  Publicintegrity.org:   Center  for  Public   Integrity   ¡  Followthemoney.org:   National  Institute  on   Money  in  State  Politics   ¡  Lobbyists  and  Other  Legislative   Resources:   §  http://www.fara.gov/  lobbying  on   behalf  of  foreign  entities   §  Congressional  Research  Service:   http://www.opencrs.com   §  GAO  Reports:  www.gao.gov   §  Thomas  website:   http://thomas.loc.gov/:  basic   legislation,  Congressional  reports   and  records  
  18. 18. ¡  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   ¡  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.  
  19. 19. ¡  FOIA:  the  good  and  the   bad   §  Secret  bonuses   §  “Oh,  that  bonus”   §  Reprocessors   ▪  List  of  reprocessors   ▪  No  List   ▪  List   ▪  Names  missing  from  list     ¡  FOIAs  can  be  used  to  acquire  data.   Check  out  The  Seattle  Times’   Michael  J.  Berens'  Oct.  22-­‐23   webinar,  Data  Journalism  101,  at   http://businessjournalism.org/ 2013/03/11/data-­‐journalism-­‐101-­‐ online-­‐oct-­‐22-­‐23/.       ¡  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  
  20. 20. ¡ Not  public   ¡ They  may  say  “Confidential.”   ¡ You  need  to  interpret,   analyze,  translate.  
  21. 21. ¡ Please  feel  free  to  contact  me   at  alecklein@gmail.com.  
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