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Finding Your Best Investigative Business Story by Michael J. Berens

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Michael J. Berens presents "Finding Your Best Investigative Business Story," a free business journalism webinar hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.

Check out additional resources from this webinar at the following link: http://businessjournalism.org/2013/02/05/finding-your-best-investigative-business-story-self-guided-training/.

For more information about free training for journalists, please visit businessjournalism.org.

Published in: Career
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Finding Your Best Investigative Business Story by Michael J. Berens

  1. 1. Finding Your Best Investigative Business Story Michael J. Berens – The Seattle Times Donald  W.  Reynolds   Na/onal  Center  for  Business  Journalism  
  2. 2. The Death Ray
  3. 3. Spaceship  by  flickr  user  snautsego  
  4. 4. Poll  Ques/on  1:   I’m  most  interested  in:   •  Long-­‐form  inves:ga:ve  stories   •  Mid-­‐level  enterprise  stories   •  Fast  breaking  stories   •  All  kinds  of  stories  –  long  and  short  term  
  5. 5. Poll  Ques/on  2:   Last  year,  the  school  spent  $8,300  for  office   equipment.  This  year,  it  will  spend  5   percent  less.  How  much  will  it  spend  this   year?   •  $7,885   •  $7,737   •  $6,640   •  $6,690  
  6. 6. Iden/fying  the  story   Not  every  story  is    your  story    
  7. 7. Project  checklist  Is  it  new?    Is  there  poten/al  for  change  or  reform?    Can  the  issue  be  quan/fied?    Will  readers  care?    Are  there  on-­‐the-­‐record  vic/ms  to  bring  the  story  to  life?  
  8. 8. Project  checklist  Why  this  story,  why  now?    Is  the  minimum  story  good  enough?    Is  there  a  unique  source  of  new  informa/on?    Can  I  describe  the  story  in  six  words  or  less?    Do  I  care?  
  9. 9. Finding  the  story  
  10. 10.  Finding  stories  •  There  is  a  seafood  company  that  operates   na3onally  that  is  linked  to  global  “cult”  leader   Rev.  Myung  Moon  •  The  affiliated  group  is  True  World  Foods  Inc.  •  True  World  Foods  is  registered  in  many  states   under  various  affiliates  
  11. 11. Finding  stories  •  Hundreds  of  sales  agents  na3onally  are  peddling   a  computer  device  that  has  been  marketed  as  a   cure  for  cancer.  The  man  who  markets  and   manufactures  the  machines  works  from  an   armed  compound  in  Budapest.    •  He  is  a  federal  fugi3ve.    •  Countless  vic3ms  lose  their  life  savings  –  and   their  lives.  
  12. 12. Finding  stories  •  Dozens  of  senior  placement  brokers  aggressively   market  their  services  to  help  families  find  long-­‐term   care  for  loved  ones  –  for  free!  •  One  of  these  senior  placement  companies  –  A  Place   for  Mom  –  is  a  mul:million  dollar  enterprise.  •  Many  companies  rake  in  hidden  fees  –  even   kickbacks.  Seniors  may  not  be  guided  to  the  best   place  but  the  one  that  pays  the  highest   commissions.  
  13. 13. SeaRle  Times  photographer  Alan  Berner  
  14. 14. Poll  Ques/on  3:  Have  you  quoted  or  cited  a  licensed  health  official  without  checking  the  person’s  background?   •  Yes   •  No  
  15. 15. Finding  stories  •  The  federal  government  has  disciplined   thousands  of  licensed  health-­‐care  providers   for  abuse,  fraud,  felony  convic3ons,  theI  and   use  of  controlled  substances  –  even  sexual   assaults  of  pa3ents.  •  Many  con3nue  to  work  other  jobs,  perhaps  in   schools,  in  government  –  most  anywhere.  
  16. 16.   Office  of  Inspector  General  –   Exclusions  database      hRp://oig.hhsc.state.tx.us/exclusions/search.aspx      
  17. 17. Finding  stories  –  Abuse     LASTNAME FIRSTNAME SPECIALTY CITY STATEALSANO DIANA HEALTH CARE AIDE W VALLEY CITY UTANDERSON LYNETTE NURSE/NURSES AIDE SALT LAKE CITY UTANDERSON ROBERT NURSE/NURSES AIDE TAYLORVILLE UTANDREW LARRY OSTEOPATH SPRINGVILLE UTARAGON MARIO NURSE/NURSES AIDE PROVO UTBEDELL RAYMOND OSTEOPATH PROVIDENCE UTBOLITH JACOB NURSE/NURSES AIDE BEAVER UTBROWN ROBERT NURSE/NURSES AIDE N SALT LAKE UTBURGERS SHARLEAN NURSE/NURSES AIDE SALT LAKE CITY UTBUTIKOFER GORDON NURSE/NURSES AIDE MANTI UTCARLIN BRANDY NURSE/NURSES AIDE W JORDAN UT
  18. 18. Finding  stories  –  felony  drugs   LASTNAME FIRSTNAME SPECIALTY CITY STATECANNON MAX SURGEON SALEM UTDROPESKY BRUCE PHARMACIST SANDY UTFISK PATRICK COUNSELOR SPRINGVILLE UTGARDNER RODNEY DENTIST GARLAND UTHOUSTON DONALD SURGEON SALT LAKE CITY UTJONES STEPHEN ANESTHESIOLOGIST BOUNTIFUL UTKAP ALECIA NURSE/NURSES AIDE FARMINGTON UTRELYEA RANDALL OSTEOPATH SPRINGVILLE UTSANZENBACHER ERIC INTERNIST/IM SALT LAKE CITY UTTAYLOR PAUL FAMILY PRACT PHYSN ROY UTTHEODORE ALEXANDER GENERAL PRACT PHYSN SANDY UT
  19. 19. Finding  stories  –  loans   LASTNAME FIRSTNAME SPECIALTY CITY STATEAPPLEGATE KIRK CHIROPRACTOR SOUTH JORDAN UTBINGHAM MICHAEL DENTIST BOUNTIFUL UTBLAMIRES CRAIG CHIROPRACTOR SOUTH JORDAN UTBOWMAN JEFFREY CHIROPRACTOR SALT LAKE CITY UTBURTON GERI CHIROPRACTOR MURRAY UTCHRISTIAN CORI GENERAL PRACT PHYSN HEBER CITY UTCHRISTIANSEN JOHN CHIROPRACTOR SALT LAKE CITY UTGIFFORD CRAIG DENTIST SALT LAKE CITY UTHANSEN KRIS CHIROPRACTOR ST GEORGE UTHASSIOTTI LEONE CHIROPRACTOR SALT LAKE CITY UTHENLEY ROBERT CHIROPRACTOR BOUNTIFUL UT
  20. 20. REPORTING  TOOLS  
  21. 21. Finding  stories  -­‐  from  the  past   Utah  pursuit  ends  in  fatal  collision            The  Salt  Lake  Tribune  -­‐  TAYLORSVILLE,  Utah  —  A  Taylorsville   police  officer  who  allegedly  ran  a  red  light  and  crashed  into  a   Tooele  mans  car,  killing  him,  was  aRemp:ng  to  join  a  pursuit,   Salt  Lake  County  Deputy  District  ARorney  Sandi  Johnson   confirmed  Monday.            (6/5/07)  
  22. 22. Fatal  Accident  Repor/ng  System   www-­‐fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/  
  23. 23. Security  and  Exchange  Commission  –  Edgar  Database   hXp://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml     10K:    Annual  report     10Q:  Quarterly  report   DEF14A:  Proxy  statement   8K:  Current  events     Financial  statements   Disclosure  of  lawsuits   Ownership  statements   Footnotes   Look  deep  into  the  filing  for  good  stuff    
  24. 24. U.S.  District  Courts,  bankruptcy  courts   and  appellate  courts  –  PACER               hRp://www.pacer.gov/   *  Must  establish  an  account   *  Cost  is  10-­‐cents  a  page   *  Hunt  for  exhibits      
  25. 25. Finding  financial  informa/on  on   nonprofit  organiza/ons                 www.Guidestar.org    
  26. 26. Wayback  Machine            hRp://archive.org/web/web.php    
  27. 27. Who  owns  the  website            www.networksoluRons.com/ whois/index.jsp    
  28. 28. Money  in  Poli/cs  –  Open  Secrets               hRp://www.opensecrets.org/    
  29. 29. Portal  for  state  court  records   hRp://www.courtreference.com/     Portal  for  state  legisla/on   hRp://www.brbpub.com/freeresources/pubrecsitesSearch.aspx?subcat=State+Legisla:ve+Bill +Search     Portal  for  state  laws  and  codes   hRp://www.brbpub.com/freeresources/pubrecsitesSearch.aspx?subcat=State+Statutes+and +Codes    
  30. 30. Group  ques/on:    What  is  your  best  Web-­‐based  research  tool  for   business  stories?    
  31. 31. Poll  Ques/on  4:  When  do  you  pitch  a  story?   •  As  soon  as  I  think  about  it   •  Early?   •  Midway?   •  Late?  
  32. 32. Selling  the  Story  
  33. 33.                  SeaRle  Times  photographer  Mike  Siegel  
  34. 34. Seniors  for  Sale  Follow  the  InformaRon    
  35. 35. Poll  Ques/on  5:  Have  you  ever  applied  computer-­‐assisted  reporRng  techniques  to  your  story?   •  Yes   •  No   •  Have  no  idea  what  you’re  talking  about.  
  36. 36. The  loca:on  of  the  home  was  secret.  Only  poten:al  buyers  with  a  $500,000  line  of  credit  could  learn  its  SeaRle  address.  The  seller  insisted  on  discre:on  because  the  price  included   three  frail  seniors  who  lived  inside.   A  Bothell  real-­‐estate  lis:ng  last  year  touted  five  seniors  for   $120,000,  "sold  separately"  from  the  home.  Bids  for  five   vulnerable  adults  in  Arlington  opened  at  $90,000  —  "cash   only.“  These  deals  arent  illegal.  Washington  officials  not  only  know   about  it,  they  allow  it.  
  37. 37. SeaRle  Times  photographer  Alan  Berner  

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