Investigative Business Journalism<br />Presented by<br />Alec Klein<br />Professor, Medill School of Journalism<br />North...
About Me<br />Alec Klein, who joined the faculty of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism last fall, is an...
How I Got the Bug<br />Father: editor-in-chief, New York Times magazine<br />Busy guy<br />Decided to write for high schoo...
“This is terrible”<br />Came home from reporting the story<br />Wrote draft of story, showed to father<br />“This is terri...
Subway on a school night<br />Did you interview the police?<br />Homework<br />Subway on a school night<br />Police statio...
Still not satisfied<br />Father flipped through notes<br />Miraculously, found a quote from a school security guard<br />“...
Refashioning a lede<br />Father edited my story<br />Translation: He rewrote it<br />Lede: “In the worst breakout of burgl...
Ideas<br />Refining and pitching the investigative business story idea<br />
Conceiving investigative stories<br />To begin with, you need PHOAM<br />P:assion<br />H:ook<br />O:riginality<br />A:cces...
The Best Ideas<br />They usually come from beats<br />That’s because they’re organic. They arise naturally in the course o...
Have a Starting Point<br />This is not the same thing as a preconceived notion<br />Rather: Consider a set of questions th...
How to confirm the idea<br />Let’s say you think you’ve hit on a <br />great idea<br />How do you check it out to <br />ma...
The Big Problem: Feeding Beast<br />But who has time to pursue investigative business stories, especially when you’re on a...
The Ugly Truth: Rebellion—within reason<br />Get out of the office: kill or be killed<br />Cub reporter: worked on vacatio...
The Wall Street Journal way	<br />Darwinian approach: only the fittest will get on Page One<br />In the old days: Only thr...
What Not to Do<br />Such as: I’d like to do an investigation of poverty<br />Many a times: Bludgeoned in editor’s office<b...
The Solution<br />About 20 percent<br />That’s enough to tell you if you’ve got a story or whether you’re going to spin yo...
Avoid This Mistake<br />Mistake: Never show editors your raw notes<br />Made that mistake on AOL<br />Editor: Don’t get it...
The Power of the Memo<br />Then Enron happened<br />Editors: What was Alec working on?<br />This time: I wrote a memo<br /...
Spinning Your Wheels<br />Having a year to do an investigative business story sounds better than it is<br />You better com...
Clarity of Purpose<br />Back to the memo<br />It clarifies the issues. It makes editors see. They can print it. They can r...
When All Else Fails<br />Let’s say your editors still say no<br />Then what?<br />Set your own agenda<br />
The New Model<br />The old model: the three-part series that took a year to report and runs in December in time for the Pu...
The Episodic Approach<br />Build on your beat coverage<br />Think this way: once a month, craft a great piece of investiga...
Examples of the episodic approach<br />The Las Vegas Sun, most notably including the reporting of Alexandra Berzon, won th...
Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
Developing and interviewing sources<br />How to get people to open up<br />
Columbo<br />I was accused of being like this<br />We’re supposed to not know<br />Have them condescend to you<br />“Treat...
The Dumbest Question in Journalism History<br />New at WSJ<br />Ordered to write lead news story<br />IBM<br />Earnings<br...
Ask the Obvious Question<br />You may know the answer already<br />To wit: How old are you?<br />Answer: 51<br />Thought 5...
Continue Reporting in 11th Hour<br />AOL series: Almost a year into it<br />Had hundreds of confidential documents<br />Ha...
Corollary to Reporting in 11th hour<br />Ask the same question five times<br />But in different ways<br />At different tim...
The Notebook<br />When to use the notebook<br />Versus<br />When not to use the notebook<br />When to tape record vs.<br /...
Thinking  on Multiple Levels<br />During the interview, you need to think about several things at the same time:<br />The ...
Let Them Yell<br />When people say you got it wrong, that you made a mistake, check it out thoroughly<br />Sometimes, it c...
The Cardinal Rules<br />Take chances<br />Bridgestone/Firestone<br />Don’t take no for an answer<br />Surgeon General<br /...
Part Two: Developing sources<br />When starting a new investigative business story, where do you begin?<br />The onion: ot...
Meet People on their Own Turf<br />At their homes<br />Afterhours<br />On weekends<br />Away from places where they are mo...
Don’t forget about the gadflies<br />Yes, they can be a bit odd<br />But they often know their stuff because they have no ...
It’s All About the Spider Web<br />Example:<br />Anonymous <br />tipster: <br />“How did you find me?”<br />
Horizontal vs. Vertical Reporting<br />
Getting Secrets<br />No secret<br />It takes time<br />Trust<br />Willingness to protect sources<br />Are you willing to g...
Bartering for Information<br />Exchange of information<br />Once you have information they want, then you become valuable<...
Background vs. Off the Record<br />Define the terms<br />Explain why it’s important to go on the record<br />Move sources ...
Beware of Agreements<br />Reading back quotes?<br />Showing stories pre publication<br />
My Rule<br />Do we let sources go? Do we let them change their minds?<br />My opinion: Let sources go<br />Example: AOL<br />
Another Cardinal Rule<br />No surprises<br />Always let them know what’s going on, even if it works against you<br />Bette...
Go  Back to Your Sources<br />Repeatedly<br />A Woodward technique<br />You need to know when you can trust your sources<b...
Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
Finding and using public documents<br />What documents to look for and where to find them<br />
The Secret<br />The secret to investigative business reporting is…<br />Start with:<br />Google<br />Lexis-Nexis<br />Fact...
Everything You Need to Know<br />You don’t need to know where all the public documents are<br />You need to know what ques...
Hidden Depositions<br />Baltimore Sun investigation: Supermarket bankruptcy<br />Words of wise editor: “The good reporters...
SEC Filings	<br />What are they?<br />Where do you get them?<br />Sec.gov<br />Company Web site<br />
SEC Filings<br />10k<br />10 Q: What’s the first thing to look for?<br />Proxy: What’s the first thing to look for?<br />S...
New Age Documents: Alec’s Facebook Page<br />
Lawsuits: What You Can Find<br />Former employees<br />Sworn testimony<br />Copies of contracts<br />Business strategy<br ...
Bankruptcy Filings<br />Goldmine<br />Pacer<br />For what?<br />Creditors; assets; debts; lawyers; suppliers; vendors<br /...
Government Filings<br />SEC<br />FCC<br />FDA<br />Key: on almost every investigative business story, there is a governmen...
Company Documents<br />Company e-mail<br />Internal newsletters<br />Get on the mailing list, if possible<br />Remember: D...
Local Government	 Records<br />Property records:<br />County or other local office<br />Many online<br />Good to check for...
Private Company Records<br />Better Business Bureau<br />Consumer complaints<br />Uniform Commercial Code<br />State recor...
Nonprofits<br />Can get detailed tax filings—990s—of their finances from the nonprofits themselves<br />Or try Guidestar a...
Web Sites<br />Airplane ownership search<br />Landings.com<br />Finding lawyers<br />Martindale.com<br />Message boards, b...
Locating People<br />Referenceusa.com<br />Superpages.com<br />AnyWho.com<br />Switchboard.com<br />Infobel.com: internati...
Political Contributions<br />Opensecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics<br />Tray.com: Political Moneyline<br />Publi...
Backgrounding an individual<br />www.reporter.org/desktop/tips/johndoe.htm<br />Born, married, died<br />Previous addresse...
Freedom of Information Act<br />FOIA: the good and the bad<br />Secret bonuses<br />“Oh, that bonus”<br />Reprocessors<br ...
The Best Documents<br />
Secret Documents<br />Not public<br />They may say “Confidential”<br />You need to interpret, analyze, translate<br />
They Don’t Say “Smoking Gun”<br />
Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
Case study<br />AOL investigation at The Washington Post<br />
What it was about<br />How I discovered how AOL inflated its advertising revenue to pull off the biggest merger in U.S. hi...
The beginning<br />Summer of 2001<br />Sitting at my desk<br />Not much going on<br />Phone rang<br />Anonymous tipster<br />
The mystery<br />Didn’t give his name or number<br />Just told me: An AOL executive had been suspended<br />PurchasePro<br...
Confirmation<br />Checked with sources; confirmed<br />Had to do with accounting<br />Not sure what<br />Waltzed over to m...
Intrigue<br />Nobody paid attention<br />Before Enron<br />Accounting scandals, not a big story—yet<br />Still, intrigued<...
Digging<br />Did what any reporter would do<br />Started calling around<br />Would call one person who would tell me to ca...
The breakthrough<br />Eventually, I called one person<br />“Hi, my name is Alec Klein, and I’m a reporter at The Washingto...
Dingy hotels, bad restaurants<br />Other doors opened<br />Met more people<br />Wasn’t glamorous<br />Dingy hotel lobbies<...
One unnamed hotel<br />Spent a lot of time in one particular hotel lobby<br />Used public telephone<br />So my calls could...
Strange looks<br />Always in that hotel lobby<br />Shoes shined<br />Reading the paper<br />Had cell phone latched to belt...
Jigsaw puzzle<br />Story began to come together like a jigsaw puzzle<br />Began to amass confidential documents<br />Didn’...
The illusion<br />AOL created the illusion of significant advertising revenue in part through questionable accounting prac...
The largest merger ever<br />Deals helped AOL clinch its historic merger with Time Warner<br />If AOL had revealed some of...
11th hour<br />After nearly year, my editor called me into office<br />Wouldn’t it be nice…<br />Should’ve run for the hil...
We had to be right<br />As far as we knew, never before had a newspaper pointed the finger at a major company’s finances<b...
The letter<br />Before my stories ran, wrote a 21-page, single-spaced letter, presenting AOL with my findings to give the ...
The media killer<br />AOL ballistic<br />High-powered law firm to kill stories<br />Lead attorney known as the media kille...
Called into the office<br />Pretty nervous<br />Told girlfriend, now mother of my children, that this might be the last st...
The meeting<br />AOL and its lawyers came to The Washington Post<br />Why my stories should be killed<br />Heading to the ...
Smoking with Fidel<br />Managing editor: “You look like a defendant”<br />He was right<br />Can’t discuss details of meeti...
How Gerald Ford got his job<br />Another thing: Meeting was held in the main newsroom conference room<br />On one wall, an...
Jaws of death<br />Suffice it to say, The Washington Post didn’t back down<br />Newspaper went ahead and published my stor...
The denouement<br />Within days, AOL confirmed the SEC had launched an investigation into AOL’s accounting as a result of ...
Prison<br />AOL was forced to revise two years of its financial results<br />Head of its business affairs division was loc...
The end of AOL<br />Ultimately, the company was forced to pay more than half a billion dollars to settle civil and crimina...
Journalism of compassion<br />A term I invented to guide my reporting<br />Fair checking<br />Another term I invented<br /...
Letting sources go<br />AOL investigation<br />Threatening letters<br />Sources run for the hills<br />Track them down<br ...
Organizing and presenting<br />Investigations on multiple platforms<br />
Organize From the Beginning<br />Develop your own system<br />Be your own best secretary<br />It’s not glamorous but someo...
The Perennial Problem	<br />The lede:<br />Hours or days or weeks of anguish<br />Blood on the computer<br />Should’ve don...
Good Ledes<br />LAS VEGAS -- Chastity Ferguson kept watch over four sleepy children late one Friday as she flipped a pack ...
What Makes This Lede Work?<br />Classic anecdotal lede<br />Simple, straight forward<br />Nothing fancy about it<br />Quot...
Trick to Ledes<br />Me in the old days: Frantically flipping through notebook searching for the lede<br />Not there<br />M...
When You’re Still Overwhelmed<br />KISS<br />Keep<br />It<br />Simple<br />Stupid<br />
Overlooked: Tone<br />Okay, enough about the torture of writing<br />Here’s an overlooked aspect of writing:<br />Tone<br ...
A Tone Technique<br />Read a book or other story that reflects what you’re doing<br />To wit: Writing about the civil war<...
Mastering the Information<br />Let’s Get Down to the Nitty Gritty:<br />Organizing the investigative business story<br />H...
The Cosmic Point<br />The nut: everyone knows the nut, right?<br />How about the so-what graf:<br />Otherwise known, at le...
Time to Respond<br />Give the company or individual plenty of time to react and respond<br />Not enough to call the night ...
The New World Order<br />One of my last Washington Post investigations in 2008:<br />Military contracting<br />In desert i...
Photography for Multimedia<br />Everything I know about photography, I owe to Steve Liss, who taught me:<br />Now, we are ...
Audio<br />We’re now all in the business of gathering audio<br />Online audio stories<br />Online audio with photos—slides...
Kinds of Sound<br />There are two kinds of sound<br />Natural sound, or “nats”<br />For a slideshow, you usually need natu...
Video Basic Rules<br />We are all videographers now<br />Use a variety of focal lengths and angles<br />Establishing shot,...
Video Rules<br />The rule of thirds: Divide the screen into thirds, with subject taking up one of the thirds—more visually...
Final Phase: Fair Check<br />Walk away from the story<br />Put yourself in the subject’s shoes<br />Is it fair?<br />Go th...
The Story Doesn’t Belong to You<br />The story may carry your name but it belongs to the paper, Web site, television stati...
Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
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Alec Klein on Investigative Business Reporting - Las Vegas

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Washington Post investigative reporter Alec Klein walks you through the steps to successful investigative business stories.

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Alec Klein on Investigative Business Reporting - Las Vegas

  1. 1. Investigative Business Journalism<br />Presented by<br />Alec Klein<br />Professor, Medill School of Journalism<br />Northwestern University<br />Las Vegas, June 9, 2010<br />
  2. 2. About Me<br />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<br />
  3. 3. How I Got the Bug<br />Father: editor-in-chief, New York Times magazine<br />Busy guy<br />Decided to write for high school paper<br />Assigned to cover run-of-the-mill burglary<br />
  4. 4. “This is terrible”<br />Came home from reporting the story<br />Wrote draft of story, showed to father<br />“This is terrible”<br />Did you call the school?<br />Phone book: Mrs. Berman at home<br />
  5. 5. Subway on a school night<br />Did you interview the police?<br />Homework<br />Subway on a school night<br />Police station<br />
  6. 6. Still not satisfied<br />Father flipped through notes<br />Miraculously, found a quote from a school security guard<br />“Worst thing ever saw”<br />Another miracle: Had noted she had worked at school for nearly 25 years<br />
  7. 7. Refashioning a lede<br />Father edited my story<br />Translation: He rewrote it<br />Lede: “In the worst breakout of burglary in nearly a quarter century…<br />Page 1<br />Hooked<br />
  8. 8. Ideas<br />Refining and pitching the investigative business story idea<br />
  9. 9. Conceiving investigative stories<br />To begin with, you need PHOAM<br />P:assion<br />H:ook<br />O:riginality<br />A:ccess<br />M:arket<br />Image by flickr user marttj<br />
  10. 10. The Best Ideas<br />They usually come from beats<br />That’s because they’re organic. They arise naturally in the course of reporting<br />To wit: Secret bonuses at City Hall<br />The anonymous tipster on AOL<br />Image by flickr user MonkeyMike<br />
  11. 11. Have a Starting Point<br />This is not the same thing as a preconceived notion<br />Rather: Consider a set of questions that need answering<br />To wit: When cigarettes are under attack, why are cigars being glamorized? (Yachting magazine)<br />
  12. 12. How to confirm the idea<br />Let’s say you think you’ve hit on a <br />great idea<br />How do you check it out to <br />make sure it’s uncharted territory?<br />Lexis-Nexis<br />Factiva<br />Amazon<br />Google<br />The overriding question: Has it been done before?<br />
  13. 13. The Big Problem: Feeding Beast<br />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?<br />
  14. 14. The Ugly Truth: Rebellion—within reason<br />Get out of the office: kill or be killed<br />Cub reporter: worked on vacations—only time the editors couldn’t assign stories<br />Worked on weekends<br />Worked afterhours, after the proverbial smoked cleared from the daily deadlines<br />Bottom-line: find time<br />
  15. 15. The Wall Street Journal way <br />Darwinian approach: only the fittest will get on Page One<br />In the old days: Only three stories on Page One<br />Lot of reporters, few A1 slots<br />Mistake: Walk into your editor’s office with an ill-conceived idea<br />
  16. 16. What Not to Do<br />Such as: I’d like to do an investigation of poverty<br />Many a times: Bludgeoned in editor’s office<br />Finally figured out: Need to do some research before entering the torture chamber<br />But how much research?<br />
  17. 17. The Solution<br />About 20 percent<br />That’s enough to tell you if you’ve got a story or whether you’re going to spin your wheels<br />The 20 percent:<br />What’s the story?<br />A new trend? <br />A twist on an old idea?<br />How will you report it and how long will it take?<br />
  18. 18. Avoid This Mistake<br />Mistake: Never show editors your raw notes<br />Made that mistake on AOL<br />Editor: Don’t get it, nothing here. Go back to work<br />
  19. 19. The Power of the Memo<br />Then Enron happened<br />Editors: What was Alec working on?<br />This time: I wrote a memo<br />Set free for a year<br />
  20. 20. Spinning Your Wheels<br />Having a year to do an investigative business story sounds better than it is<br />You better come up with a great piece<br />Can you withstand making no progress for several weeks at a time?<br />Maybe inbred<br />
  21. 21. Clarity of Purpose<br />Back to the memo<br />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<br />
  22. 22. When All Else Fails<br />Let’s say your editors still say no<br />Then what?<br />Set your own agenda<br />
  23. 23. The New Model<br />The old model: the three-part series that took a year to report and runs in December in time for the Pulitzer entries<br />The new model: write episodically<br />WSJ did this: Word was sent out at the beginning of the year—let’s write about death<br />The episodic approach, it’s the way of the world: The economy, the industry. Investigative reporting is expensive<br />
  24. 24. The Episodic Approach<br />Build on your beat coverage<br />Think this way: once a month, craft a great piece of investigative reporting on the same subject<br />Over a year, you’ll end up with 12 pieces that amount to a worthy in-depth investigation into a single topic<br />
  25. 25. Examples of the episodic approach<br />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<br />Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post, 2008,<br /> for international reporting, for his episodic <br /> stories about private security contractors<br />Kevin Helliker and Thomas M. Burton of The<br /> Wall Street Journal, 2004 for their episodic<br /> stories about aneurysms<br />
  26. 26. Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
  27. 27. Developing and interviewing sources<br />How to get people to open up<br />
  28. 28. Columbo<br />I was accused of being like this<br />We’re supposed to not know<br />Have them condescend to you<br />“Treat me like a fifth grader”<br />Don’t have an ego about this<br />Need to be absolutely sure to write authoritatively<br />
  29. 29. The Dumbest Question in Journalism History<br />New at WSJ<br />Ordered to write lead news story<br />IBM<br />Earnings<br />Sweat<br />Call analyst: What’s P&L?<br />Cancel subscription<br />
  30. 30. Ask the Obvious Question<br />You may know the answer already<br />To wit: How old are you?<br />Answer: 51<br />Thought 52<br />Yeah, actually 52<br />If small lie, is there a bigger lie<br />
  31. 31. Continue Reporting in 11th Hour<br />AOL series: Almost a year into it<br />Had hundreds of confidential documents<br />Had well-placed sources<br />Editor called me into his office<br />Mused: Wouldn’t it be nice …<br />Vice president of finance<br />
  32. 32. Corollary to Reporting in 11th hour<br />Ask the same question five times<br />But in different ways<br />At different times<br />To wit: Do you know a vice president-level finance guy who had raised questions about AOL’s finances?<br />
  33. 33. The Notebook<br />When to use the notebook<br />Versus<br />When not to use the notebook<br />When to tape record vs.<br />When not to tape record<br />Billionaire: I want to be able to deny I had this conversation<br />
  34. 34. Thinking on Multiple Levels<br />During the interview, you need to think about several things at the same time:<br />The lede<br />The images to capture<br />The details to portray<br />Is this the first of many interviews or a one-shot deal?<br />Why, why, why?<br />The cosmic point<br />Follow up questions<br />
  35. 35. Let Them Yell<br />When people say you got it wrong, that you made a mistake, check it out thoroughly<br />Sometimes, it can help<br />Red Hat<br />The Reluctant Interviewee<br />What do you do when they won’t talk?<br />Options:<br />Call<br />E-mail<br />Letter<br />Certified letter: know they got it, but act of war?<br />Intermediary: someone they know<br />
  36. 36. The Cardinal Rules<br />Take chances<br />Bridgestone/Firestone<br />Don’t take no for an answer<br />Surgeon General<br />Go there<br />Gettysburg<br />Last Words of Advice<br />Bob Woodward<br />Show up early<br />Me<br />Show up late<br />
  37. 37. Part Two: Developing sources<br />When starting a new investigative business story, where do you begin?<br />The onion: otherwise known as the circling effect<br />Begin on the outside, work your way in:<br />Family<br />Friends<br />Friends of friends<br />Customers<br />Suppliers<br />Competitors<br />Unions<br />Associations<br />Former employees<br />Current employees<br />Secretaries<br />Executives<br />
  38. 38. Meet People on their Own Turf<br />At their homes<br />Afterhours<br />On weekends<br />Away from places where they are monitored or overheard<br />At bars<br />Restaurants<br />Bowling alleys<br />Places Where People Network:<br />Conventions<br />Industry gatherings<br />Trade shows<br />Exchange business cards<br />Socialize<br />Network<br />
  39. 39. Don’t forget about the gadflies<br />Yes, they can be a bit odd<br />But they often know their stuff because they have no other life<br />Don’t Dismiss the PR People<br />Example: secret bonuses<br />But also: AT&T cable assets<br />“You didn’t ask the right question”<br />Image by flickr user Meg Marco<br />
  40. 40. It’s All About the Spider Web<br />Example:<br />Anonymous <br />tipster: <br />“How did you find me?”<br />
  41. 41. Horizontal vs. Vertical Reporting<br />
  42. 42. Getting Secrets<br />No secret<br />It takes time<br />Trust<br />Willingness to protect sources<br />Are you willing to go to jail for them?<br />
  43. 43. Bartering for Information<br />Exchange of information<br />Once you have information they want, then you become valuable<br />You have something to barter<br />As long as it’s not confidential information<br />
  44. 44. Background vs. Off the Record<br />Define the terms<br />Explain why it’s important to go on the record<br />Move sources up the ladder<br />Off the record<br />On background<br />On the record<br />Sometimes, refuse to go off the record: why?<br />It can tie your hands<br />
  45. 45. Beware of Agreements<br />Reading back quotes?<br />Showing stories pre publication<br />
  46. 46. My Rule<br />Do we let sources go? Do we let them change their minds?<br />My opinion: Let sources go<br />Example: AOL<br />
  47. 47. Another Cardinal Rule<br />No surprises<br />Always let them know what’s going on, even if it works against you<br />Better for them to be angry at you before publication than after, when it’s too late<br />AOL<br />21-page single-spaced letter<br />Credit raters<br />Removed lead anecdote even though information obtained independently<br />
  48. 48. Go Back to Your Sources<br />Repeatedly<br />A Woodward technique<br />You need to know when you can trust your sources<br />Eg.: Whether FTC would approve AOL-Time Warner merger<br />Origins: Editor: Woodward was a new reporter, too<br />FTC threatens pre publication: Last story you’ll write<br />Sources at the heart of the secret<br />
  49. 49. Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
  50. 50. Finding and using public documents<br />What documents to look for and where to find them<br />
  51. 51. The Secret<br />The secret to investigative business reporting is…<br />Start with:<br />Google<br />Lexis-Nexis<br />Factiva<br />
  52. 52. Everything You Need to Know<br />You don’t need to know where all the public documents are<br />You need to know what questions to ask to find them<br />To wit: 192.com<br />
  53. 53. Hidden Depositions<br />Baltimore Sun investigation: Supermarket bankruptcy<br />Words of wise editor: “The good reporters know what’s missing”<br />Thinking: I never know what’s missing<br />Did you check for hidden depositions?<br />Not in court record: wads of cash in<br /> brown paper bags<br />Before the jump on A1<br />
  54. 54. SEC Filings <br />What are they?<br />Where do you get them?<br />Sec.gov<br />Company Web site<br />
  55. 55. SEC Filings<br />10k<br />10 Q: What’s the first thing to look for?<br />Proxy: What’s the first thing to look for?<br />SEC public filings only go so far<br />What is considered “material” to investors?<br />Material: Any information related to a particular business that might be relevant to an investor's decision to buy, sell or hold a security<br />A company can slice its business into small sectors that don’t require disclosure<br />To wit: AOL<br />
  56. 56. New Age Documents: Alec’s Facebook Page<br />
  57. 57. Lawsuits: What You Can Find<br />Former employees<br />Sworn testimony<br />Copies of contracts<br />Business strategy<br />Where to find lawsuits<br />State and federal suits<br />Many online<br />If not online, check Lexis-Nexis<br />If not there, check Pacer for federal suits<br />http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov (not free)<br />Pulling documents<br />Big issue?<br />Money<br />
  58. 58. Bankruptcy Filings<br />Goldmine<br />Pacer<br />For what?<br />Creditors; assets; debts; lawyers; suppliers; vendors<br />Key kinds?<br />Chapter 7: liquidation<br />Chapter 11: reorganization<br />
  59. 59. Government Filings<br />SEC<br />FCC<br />FDA<br />Key: on almost every investigative business story, there is a government body that has some connection to it<br />Congressional Testimony<br />Contradictions<br />Remember the tobacco executives who claimed they didn’t know anything about the addictive power of cigarettes?<br />
  60. 60. Company Documents<br />Company e-mail<br />Internal newsletters<br />Get on the mailing list, if possible<br />Remember: Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t break into computer system<br />Chiquita Banana case<br />Wall Street analyst reports<br />
  61. 61. Local Government Records<br />Property records:<br />County or other local office<br />Many online<br />Good to check for:<br />Size, details of executive’s home<br />Other great resources:<br />Planning department<br />Zoning<br />Construction<br />Driver records<br />Depends on state; eg. Maryland, need permission of driver for records<br />
  62. 62. Private Company Records<br />Better Business Bureau<br />Consumer complaints<br />Uniform Commercial Code<br />State records, secretary of state usually; shows who has borrowed money, what used as collateral, etc.<br />Incorporation records<br />Usually secretary of state; records of founding of the business; who owns it; its executives; etc.<br />Hoovers<br />Hoovers.com<br />
  63. 63. Nonprofits<br />Can get detailed tax filings—990s—of their finances from the nonprofits themselves<br />Or try Guidestar at www.guidestar.org<br />
  64. 64. Web Sites<br />Airplane ownership search<br />Landings.com<br />Finding lawyers<br />Martindale.com<br />Message boards, blogs<br />Web site ownership<br />http://www.whois.sc/<br />Internet archive: old Web sites<br />www.archive.org<br />ProfNet: e-mail queries for experts<br />www.profnet.com<br />
  65. 65. Locating People<br />Referenceusa.com<br />Superpages.com<br />AnyWho.com<br />Switchboard.com<br />Infobel.com: international directory<br />AutoTrack and other pay Sites:<br />Expensive<br />Metered<br />Even at The Washington Post: key holder<br />But good resource for information for investigative or beat reporting<br />Personal information: telephone numbers<br />Neighbors<br />Legal judgments<br />
  66. 66. Political Contributions<br />Opensecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics<br />Tray.com: Political Moneyline<br />Publicintegrity.org: Center for Public Integrity<br />Followthemoney.org: The Institute on Money in State Politics<br />Lobbyists and Other Legislative Resources:<br />http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/faralobbying on behalf of foreign entities<br />Congressional Research Service: http://www.opencrs.com<br />GAO Reports: www.gao.gov<br />Thomas Web site: http://thomas.loc.gov/: basic legislation, Congressional reports and records<br />
  67. 67. Backgrounding an individual<br />www.reporter.org/desktop/tips/johndoe.htm<br />Born, married, died<br />Previous addresses, relatives, associates<br />Lawsuits, bankruptcies, divorce, criminal, traffic<br />Home phone<br />Attended college<br />Real estate<br />Etc.<br />Courtesy of Duff Wilson of The New York Times<br />Truth About Criminal Records:<br />There is a national criminal record database but it is not available to the public<br />FBI database<br />Public access to criminal records controlled at the state level<br />Each state has different rules about who may access records and what records will be available<br />Some records handled at the county level<br />
  68. 68. Freedom of Information Act<br />FOIA: the good and the bad<br />Secret bonuses<br />“Oh, that bonus”<br />Reprocessors<br />List of reprocessors<br />No List<br />List<br />Names missing from list<br />Beware:<br />They might leave stuff out<br />Of fishing expeditions<br />Of unexpected costs<br />Sample FOIA letters: www.nfoic.org/sample-foia-letters<br />FOIA letter generator: www.rcfp.org/foialetter/index.php<br />
  69. 69. The Best Documents<br />
  70. 70. Secret Documents<br />Not public<br />They may say “Confidential”<br />You need to interpret, analyze, translate<br />
  71. 71. They Don’t Say “Smoking Gun”<br />
  72. 72. Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />
  73. 73. Case study<br />AOL investigation at The Washington Post<br />
  74. 74. What it was about<br />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<br />
  75. 75. The beginning<br />Summer of 2001<br />Sitting at my desk<br />Not much going on<br />Phone rang<br />Anonymous tipster<br />
  76. 76. The mystery<br />Didn’t give his name or number<br />Just told me: An AOL executive had been suspended<br />PurchasePro<br />Las Vegas dot-com<br />Red flag: Gambling & dot-coms<br />
  77. 77. Confirmation<br />Checked with sources; confirmed<br />Had to do with accounting<br />Not sure what<br />Waltzed over to my editors, surprised that I wanted to write a story<br />Buried deep in the business section of The Washington Post: E5<br />Not even my mother reads that far<br />
  78. 78. Intrigue<br />Nobody paid attention<br />Before Enron<br />Accounting scandals, not a big story—yet<br />Still, intrigued<br />Why was AOL official suspended?<br />Who was PurchasePro?<br />What was the accounting issue?<br />
  79. 79. Digging<br />Did what any reporter would do<br />Started calling around<br />Would call one person who would tell me to call someone else<br />That someone else would tell me to call so-and-so<br />So-and-so would tell me to call three other people<br />
  80. 80. The breakthrough<br />Eventually, I called one person<br />“Hi, my name is Alec Klein, and I’m a reporter at The Washington Post”<br />Before I could say anything else: “How did you find me?”<br />Didn’t know I had found anyone until he said those very words<br />Then I realized: found my anonymous tipster<br />
  81. 81. Dingy hotels, bad restaurants<br />Other doors opened<br />Met more people<br />Wasn’t glamorous<br />Dingy hotel lobbies<br />Bad restaurants where they wouldn’t be seen with a Washington Post reporter<br />
  82. 82. One unnamed hotel<br />Spent a lot of time in one particular hotel lobby<br />Used public telephone<br />So my calls couldn’t be traced back to The Washington Post<br />Sources were afraid of being seen or heard talking to a Washington Post reporter<br />AOL was notorious for being more secretive than the Pentagon<br />
  83. 83. Strange looks<br />Always in that hotel lobby<br />Shoes shined<br />Reading the paper<br />Had cell phone latched to belt, but was always using the public telephone<br />Would ask for change in the gift shop<br />Strange looks<br />Hotel thought: drug dealer<br />
  84. 84. Jigsaw puzzle<br />Story began to come together like a jigsaw puzzle<br />Began to amass confidential documents<br />Didn’t say “Smoking Gun” on them<br />But pattern emerged<br />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<br />
  85. 85. The illusion<br />AOL created the illusion of significant advertising revenue in part through questionable accounting practices<br />For example: AOL legal case, turned it into ad revenue<br />AOL sold ads on behalf of eBay but AOL booked the sales as its own<br />
  86. 86. The largest merger ever<br />Deals helped AOL clinch its historic merger with Time Warner<br />If AOL had revealed some of its financial weakness, Time Warner could have pulled out of the deal<br />
  87. 87. 11th hour<br />After nearly year, my editor called me into office<br />Wouldn’t it be nice…<br />Should’ve run for the hills<br />Vice president of finance?<br />Ask question five times<br />
  88. 88. We had to be right<br />As far as we knew, never before had a newspaper pointed the finger at a major company’s finances<br />Usually a whistleblower<br />Or company comes clean<br />If we were wrong by an inch, all over<br />
  89. 89. The letter<br />Before my stories ran, wrote a 21-page, single-spaced letter, presenting AOL with my findings to give the company an opportunity to respond<br />Included everything<br />Such as: hair plants imported from South America<br />Bumped into Dick Parsons in the AOL lobby<br />Hadn’t even noticed him<br />
  90. 90. The media killer<br />AOL ballistic<br />High-powered law firm to kill stories<br />Lead attorney known as the media killer<br />Successful in fighting the media on other big stories<br />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<br />
  91. 91. Called into the office<br />Pretty nervous<br />Told girlfriend, now mother of my children, that this might be the last story I ever write<br />Len Downie: called into his office<br />Didn’t actually talk about anything<br />Smiled at each other<br />Just wanted to know who was this reporter causing this ruckus<br />
  92. 92. The meeting<br />AOL and its lawyers came to The Washington Post<br />Why my stories should be killed<br />Heading to the meeting: bumped into the managing editor in the middle of the newsroom<br />Looked at me in utter shock<br />Had shaved<br />Was wearing a tie<br />Shirt buttoned all the way to the top<br />
  93. 93. Smoking with Fidel<br />Managing editor: “You look like a defendant”<br />He was right<br />Can’t discuss details of meeting<br />But can tell this:<br />Len Downie talked about smoking cigars with Fidel Castro. That set the tone<br />
  94. 94. How Gerald Ford got his job<br />Another thing: Meeting was held in the main newsroom conference room<br />On one wall, an old print plate: “Nixon Resigns”<br />On opposite wall, a framed classified ad, showing a picture of Gerald Ford<br />“I got my job through The Washington Post”<br />
  95. 95. Jaws of death<br />Suffice it to say, The Washington Post didn’t back down<br />Newspaper went ahead and published my stories<br />Day of the first story, AOL’s chief operating officer was forced to resign<br />Call from an AOL official: Congrats. Jaws of death<br />
  96. 96. The denouement<br />Within days, AOL confirmed the SEC had launched an investigation into AOL’s accounting as a result of my stories<br />Then the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation because of my stories<br />Then AOL admitted it had improperly booked $49 million in ad revenue<br />Then: $190 million<br />
  97. 97. Prison<br />AOL was forced to revise two years of its financial results<br />Head of its business affairs division was locked out of his office and fired<br />Business affairs division that was the focus of my investigation was disbanded<br />Others went to jail<br />
  98. 98. The end of AOL<br />Ultimately, the company was forced to pay more than half a billion dollars to settle civil and criminal allegations<br />They even removed AOL from company name<br />No longer: AOL Time Warner<br />Just: Time Warner<br />
  99. 99. Journalism of compassion<br />A term I invented to guide my reporting<br />Fair checking<br />Another term I invented<br />Put yourself in their shoes<br />Is it fair?<br />Different than: Is it accurate?<br />To wit: The paunch<br />
  100. 100. Letting sources go<br />AOL investigation<br />Threatening letters<br />Sources run for the hills<br />Track them down<br />Beg<br />Grovel<br />But can’t threaten<br />Can’t coerce<br />Only: Do what’s right<br />
  101. 101. Organizing and presenting<br />Investigations on multiple platforms<br />
  102. 102. Organize From the Beginning<br />Develop your own system<br />Be your own best secretary<br />It’s not glamorous but someone has to do it<br />Keeping track of mounds of documents, notepads, calls—need to be organized<br />My system:<br />Daily log<br />Phone log<br />Contact list<br />Cork board<br />Visualize key players<br />Calendar<br />Themes<br />
  103. 103. The Perennial Problem <br />The lede:<br />Hours or days or weeks of anguish<br />Blood on the computer<br />Should’ve done something else<br />Work with hands<br />Like a farmer<br />
  104. 104. Good Ledes<br />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.<br />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.<br />"You can't beat the prices," said the hotel cashier, who makes $400 a week. "I come here because it's cheap."<br />Image by flickr user Lone Primate<br />
  105. 105. What Makes This Lede Work?<br />Classic anecdotal lede<br />Simple, straight forward<br />Nothing fancy about it<br />Quote that gets to the heart of the story: “You can’t beat the prices”<br />We can do this<br />The Los Angeles Times; that’s the lede from a series that won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting<br />
  106. 106. Trick to Ledes<br />Me in the old days: Frantically flipping through notebook searching for the lede<br />Not there<br />Me now: Report the lede beforehand so you don’t have to search for it later in your notes<br />To wit: Lede to Stealing Time--grumpy old man<br />WSJ approach to ledes:<br />All about the purity of the lede<br />Must be exactly on point<br />Not sort of the point<br />Joke:<br />Colon<br />Question mark<br />Pithy-sentence lede<br />
  107. 107. When You’re Still Overwhelmed<br />KISS<br />Keep<br />It<br />Simple<br />Stupid<br />
  108. 108. Overlooked: Tone<br />Okay, enough about the torture of writing<br />Here’s an overlooked aspect of writing:<br />Tone<br />The sound of the story<br />Rarely is it premeditated<br />It should be<br />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.<br />Lisa Pollak’s story<br />Baltimore Sun<br />Winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing<br />
  109. 109. A Tone Technique<br />Read a book or other story that reflects what you’re doing<br />To wit: Writing about the civil war<br />Read the classic, Killer Angels<br />Wrote lede to reenactment of the Gettysburg Battle<br />Using old English<br />Should’ve mentioned <br /> it to my editors<br />
  110. 110. Mastering the Information<br />Let’s Get Down to the Nitty Gritty:<br />Organizing the investigative business story<br />How I do it:<br />Divide by interviewee<br />Annotate my own notes<br />Develop a detailed outline from the notes<br />Review and re-review the notes<br />Can take days—or weeks<br />But you have a roadmap<br />
  111. 111. The Cosmic Point<br />The nut: everyone knows the nut, right?<br />How about the so-what graf:<br />Otherwise known, at least to me, as the cosmic point<br />The reason why we’re reading your story<br />Examples:<br /> Greed<br />Hubris<br />Ambition<br />The To-Be-Sure Clause:<br />Wall Street Journal thing<br />The exception to the rule, or the trend<br />Up high<br />To immunize yourself<br />Because there’s always an exception<br />
  112. 112. Time to Respond<br />Give the company or individual plenty of time to react and respond<br />Not enough to call the night before<br />Call, e-mail, stop by—and repeatedly<br />To wit: AOL<br />Six weeks, an eternity<br />Risk: story leaks to competitors<br />But must be done<br />
  113. 113. The New World Order<br />One of my last Washington Post investigations in 2008:<br />Military contracting<br />In desert in suit (not a good idea)<br />Carrying notepad<br />Digital camera<br />Camcorder<br />
  114. 114. Photography for Multimedia<br />Everything I know about photography, I owe to Steve Liss, who taught me:<br />Now, we are all photographers<br />When you’re shooting, take a lot of pictures—at least 100 images<br />Camera is your notepad<br />Record moments as they unfold<br />Don’t wait for the perfect moment<br />The first way you view a scene is not always the best<br />Try different shooting angles<br />Eye level<br />From above on a chair<br />From below on the floor<br />Look for the inherent logic of the shot;<br />eg,. a shot of giant might be better from a higher angle<br />Don’t shoot everything from a wide angle<br />Look for other opportunities, such as close-ups, which can have more impact<br />Imagine, say, an expressive face<br />
  115. 115. Audio<br />We’re now all in the business of gathering audio<br />Online audio stories<br />Online audio with photos—slideshows <br />All you need:<br />A digital camera<br />A digital recorder that can connect to a computer to download audio files<br />Audio Slideshows:<br />You need to show how the story begins<br />How the subject gets from point A to B to C<br />Show in the photos what the audio is telling<br />The photos must match the audio<br />So take lots of pictures <br />Helps to ensure that images match sound<br />Usually: you don’t want a single image to linger onscreen for more than 10 seconds<br />For a three-minute slideshow, plan for at least 18 photos<br />
  116. 116. Kinds of Sound<br />There are two kinds of sound<br />Natural sound, or “nats”<br />For a slideshow, you usually need natural sound—eg., the sound of bacon frying in the background, the roar of the crowd<br />Turn on the recorder, point it at the natural sound and capture a lot of it<br />May help later during editing to bridge sections of your audio story<br />Interviews<br />Beware of loud background sound<br />Move interview subject away from that noise<br />Hold the recorder close to the subject, within a foot and a half<br />Avoid talking over the interviewee: “Uh huh” et al<br />If necessary: Nod head<br />Beware of wind<br />Stay away from yes or no questions<br />Ask open-ended questions:<br />Why?<br />
  117. 117. Video Basic Rules<br />We are all videographers now<br />Use a variety of focal lengths and angles<br />Establishing shot, wide, tells the viewer where the story is taking place<br />Medium shot: takes the viewer closer to the action<br />Tight: close up<br />No zooms or pans<br />Shoot and move: Zoom with your feet<br />Limit motion of the camera; use set shots<br />
  118. 118. Video Rules<br />The rule of thirds: Divide the screen into thirds, with subject taking up one of the thirds—more visually arresting<br />Rule of 180 degrees<br />Which way is the subject’s nose pointing?<br />Stay on that side<br />Don’t switch sides<br />Disorients viewer<br />Jump Cuts:<br />Common mistake<br />Two things don’t match visually<br />To wit: Person is in one spot; in the next frame, he magically jumps to another spot<br />One way to avoid jump cuts: have person or action come into and out of frame before moving on<br />
  119. 119. Final Phase: Fair Check<br />Walk away from the story<br />Put yourself in the subject’s shoes<br />Is it fair?<br />Go through the story line by line<br />Different than fact checking; it’s all in the nuances<br />
  120. 120. The Story Doesn’t Belong to You<br />The story may carry your name but it belongs to the paper, Web site, television station<br />It’s a communal project; must get buy in; editors must be on board<br />Must be willing to let go of the language; be amenable to change<br />One third of the investigative business story is the reporting<br />Another third is the writing<br />The final third is the in-house hurdles<br />
  121. 121. Questions?<br />Please feel free to contact me at alecklein@gmail.com<br />

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