Investigative Business Journalism Webinar


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Alec Klein presents "Investigative Business Journalism," a Webinar hosted by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. For more information, visit

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Investigative Business Journalism Webinar

  1. 1. <ul><li>Presented by </li></ul><ul><li>Alec Klein, professor </li></ul><ul><li>Medill School of Journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Northwestern University </li></ul>
  2. 2. <ul><li>How to identify an investigative business story idea, especially for beat reporters who have little time to pursue in-depth stories while pumping out lots of stories </li></ul><ul><li>How to refine the investigative business story idea </li></ul><ul><li>How to pitch the investigative business </li></ul><ul><li>story idea </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>To begin with, you need PHOAM </li></ul><ul><li>P :assion </li></ul><ul><li>H :ook </li></ul><ul><li>O :riginality </li></ul><ul><li>A :ccess </li></ul><ul><li>M :arket </li></ul>Image by flickr user marttj
  4. 4. <ul><li>They usually come from beats </li></ul><ul><li>That’s because they’re organic. They arise naturally in the course of reporting </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: Secret bonuses at City Hall </li></ul><ul><li>The anonymous tipster on AOL </li></ul>Image by flickr user MonkeyMike
  5. 5. <ul><li>This is not the same thing as a preconceived notion </li></ul><ul><li>Rather: Consider a set of questions that need answering </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: When cigarettes are under attack, why are cigars being glamorized? (Yachting magazine) </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Let’s say you think you’ve hit on a </li></ul><ul><li>great idea </li></ul><ul><li>How do you check it out to </li></ul><ul><li>make sure it’s uncharted territory? </li></ul><ul><li>Lexis-Nexis </li></ul><ul><li>Factiva </li></ul><ul><li>Amazon </li></ul><ul><li>Google </li></ul><ul><li>The overriding question: Has it been done before? </li></ul>
  7. 7. 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? Poll : Are you a beat reporter: Y or N? Poll : Are you swamped feeding the beast? Y or N?
  8. 8. <ul><li>Get out of the office: kill or be killed </li></ul><ul><li>Cub reporter: worked on vacations—only time the editors couldn’t assign stories </li></ul><ul><li>Worked on weekends </li></ul><ul><li>Worked afterhours, after the proverbial smoked cleared from the daily deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Bottom-line: find time </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : Have you worked: </li></ul><ul><li>A) afterhours </li></ul><ul><li>B) on weekends </li></ul><ul><li>C) on vacations </li></ul><ul><li>D) All of the above </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Darwinian approach: only the fittest will get on Page One </li></ul><ul><li>In the old days: Only three stories on Page One </li></ul><ul><li>Lot of reporters, few A1 slots </li></ul><ul><li>Mistake: Walk into your editor’s office with an ill-conceived idea </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Such as: I’d like to do an investigation of poverty </li></ul><ul><li>Many a times: Bludgeoned in editor’s office </li></ul><ul><li>Finally figured out: Need to do some research before entering the torture chamber </li></ul><ul><li>But how much research? </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>About 20 percent </li></ul><ul><li>That’s enough to tell you if you’ve got a story or whether you’re going to spin your wheels </li></ul><ul><li>The 20 percent: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s the story? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A new trend? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A twist on an old idea? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How will you report it and how long will it take? </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Mistake: Never show editors your raw notes </li></ul><ul><li>Made that mistake on AOL </li></ul><ul><li>Editor: Don’t get it, nothing here. Go back to work </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Then Enron happened </li></ul><ul><li>Editors: What was Alec working on? </li></ul><ul><li>This time: I wrote a memo </li></ul><ul><li>Set free for a year </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Having a year to do an investigative business story sounds better than it is </li></ul><ul><li>You better come up with a great piece </li></ul><ul><li>Can you withstand making no progress for several weeks at a time? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maybe inbred </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Poll : Can you work alone for long periods, isolated? Y or N? </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Back to the memo </li></ul><ul><li>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 </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Let’s say your editors still say no </li></ul><ul><li>Then what? </li></ul><ul><li>Set your own agenda </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>The old model: the three-part series that took a year to report and runs in December in time for the Pulitzer entries </li></ul><ul><li>The new model: write episodically </li></ul><ul><li>WSJ did this: Word was sent out at the beginning of the year—let’s write about death </li></ul><ul><li>The episodic approach, it’s the way of the world: The economy, the industry. Investigative reporting is expensive </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Build on your beat coverage </li></ul><ul><li>Think this way: once a month, craft a great piece of investigative reporting on the same subject </li></ul><ul><li>Over a year, you’ll end up with 12 pieces that amount to a worthy in-depth investigation into a single topic </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>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 </li></ul><ul><li>Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post, 2008, </li></ul><ul><li>for international reporting, for his episodic </li></ul><ul><li>stories about private security contractors </li></ul><ul><li>Kevin Helliker and Thomas M. Burton of The </li></ul><ul><li> Wall Street Journal, 2004 for their episodic </li></ul><ul><li>stories about aneurysms </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>Please feel free to contact me at [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>And please feel free to e-mail to me questions that you would like to ask our panel of investigative business journalists for Friday’s online chat </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Presented by </li></ul><ul><li>Alec Klein, professor </li></ul><ul><li>Medill School of Journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Northwestern University </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Interviewing </li></ul><ul><li>Building sources </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>Learn new interviewing techniques and approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss ways of developing and handling sources </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>Columbo </li></ul><ul><li>We’re supposed to not know </li></ul><ul><li>Have them condescend to you </li></ul><ul><li>“ Treat me like a fifth grader” </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t have an ego about this </li></ul><ul><li>Need to be absolutely sure to write authoritatively </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>New at WSJ </li></ul><ul><li>Ordered to write lead news story </li></ul><ul><li>IBM </li></ul><ul><li>Earnings </li></ul><ul><li>Sweat </li></ul><ul><li>Call analyst: What’s P&L? </li></ul><ul><li>Cancel subscription </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>You may know the answer already </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: How old are you? </li></ul><ul><li>Answer: 51 </li></ul><ul><li>Thought 52 </li></ul><ul><li>Yeah, actually 52 </li></ul><ul><li>If small lie, is there a bigger lie </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>AOL series: Almost a year into it </li></ul><ul><li>Had hundreds of confidential documents </li></ul><ul><li>Had well-placed sources </li></ul><ul><li>Editor called me into his office </li></ul><ul><li>Mused: Wouldn’t it be nice … </li></ul><ul><li>Vice president of finance </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Ask the same question five times </li></ul><ul><li>But in different ways </li></ul><ul><li>At different times </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: Do you know a vice president-level finance guy who had raised questions about AOL’s finances? </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>When to use the notebook </li></ul><ul><li>Versus </li></ul><ul><li>When not to use the notebook </li></ul><ul><li>When to tape record vs. </li></ul><ul><li>When not to tape record </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Billionaire: I want to be able to deny I had this conversation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Poll : Do you tape record most or all interviews: Y or N? </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>During the interview, you need to think about several things at the same time: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The lede </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The images to capture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The details to portray </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is this the first of many interviews or a one-shot deal? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why, why, why? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The cosmic point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow up questions </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>When people say you got it wrong, that you made a mistake, check it out thoroughly </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes, it can help </li></ul><ul><li>Red Hat </li></ul><ul><li>The Reluctant Interviewee </li></ul><ul><li>What do you do when they won’t talk? </li></ul><ul><li>Options: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Call </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-mail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Letter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Certified letter: know they got it, but act of war? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intermediary: someone they know </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Take chances </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bridgestone/Firestone </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t take no for an answer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surgeon General </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Go there </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gettysburg </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Last Words of Advice </li></ul><ul><li>Bob Woodward </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Show up early </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Me </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Show up late </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>When starting a new investigative business story, where do you begin? </li></ul><ul><li>The onion: otherwise known as the circling effect </li></ul><ul><li>Begin on the outside, work your way in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Friends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Friends of friends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Customers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suppliers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Associations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Former employees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Current employees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Secretaries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Executives </li></ul></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>At their homes </li></ul><ul><li>Afterhours </li></ul><ul><li>On weekends </li></ul><ul><li>Away from places where they are monitored or overheard </li></ul><ul><ul><li>At bars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Restaurants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bowling alleys </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Places Where People Network: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Conventions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Industry gatherings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trade shows </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Exchange business cards </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Socialize </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Network </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Poll : Have you met sources at: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A) Bars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B) Bowling alleys </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>C) Conventions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>D) All of the above </li></ul></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>Yes, they can be a bit odd </li></ul><ul><li>But they often know their stuff because they have no other life </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t Dismiss the PR People </li></ul><ul><li>Example: secret bonuses </li></ul><ul><li>But also: AT&T cable assets </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ You didn’t ask the right question” </li></ul></ul>Image by flickr user Meg Marco
  36. 36. Example: Anonymous tipster: “ How did you find me?”
  37. 38. <ul><li>No secret </li></ul><ul><li>It takes time </li></ul><ul><li>Trust </li></ul><ul><li>Willingness to protect sources </li></ul><ul><li>Are you willing to go to jail for them? </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : Y or N? </li></ul>
  38. 39. <ul><li>Exchange of information </li></ul><ul><li>Once you have information they want, then you become valuable </li></ul><ul><li>You have something to barter </li></ul><ul><li>As long as it’s not confidential information </li></ul>
  39. 40. <ul><li>Define the terms </li></ul><ul><li>Explain why it’s important to go on the record </li></ul><ul><li>Move sources up the ladder </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Off the record </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>On background </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>On the record </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sometimes, refuse to go off the record: why? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It can tie your hands </li></ul></ul>
  40. 41. <ul><li>Reading back quotes? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poll : Y or N? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Showing stories pre publication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poll : Y or N? </li></ul></ul>
  41. 42. <ul><li>Do we let sources go? Do we let them change their minds? </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : Y or N? </li></ul><ul><li>My opinion: Let sources go </li></ul><ul><li>Example: AOL </li></ul>
  42. 43. <ul><li>No surprises </li></ul><ul><li>Always let them know what’s going on, even if it works against you </li></ul><ul><li>Better for them to be angry at you before publication than after, when it’s too late </li></ul><ul><li>AOL </li></ul><ul><ul><li>21-page single-spaced letter </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Credit raters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Removed lead anecdote even though information obtained independently </li></ul></ul>
  43. 44. <ul><li>Repeatedly </li></ul><ul><li>A Woodward technique </li></ul><ul><li>You need to know when you can trust your sources </li></ul><ul><li>Eg.: Whether FTC would approve AOL-Time Warner merger </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Origins: Editor: Woodward was a new reporter, too </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FTC threatens pre publication: Last story you’ll write </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sources at the heart of the secret </li></ul></ul>
  44. 45. <ul><li>Please feel free to contact me at [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>And please feel free to e-mail to me questions that you would like to ask our panel of investigative business journalists for Friday’s online chat </li></ul>
  45. 46. <ul><li>Presented by </li></ul><ul><li>Alec Klein, professor </li></ul><ul><li>Medill School of Journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Northwestern University </li></ul>
  46. 47. <ul><li>Review a range of public documents available to investigative business journalists </li></ul>
  47. 48. <ul><li>Understand where to find public documents </li></ul><ul><li>Demystify the process of searching for public documents </li></ul><ul><li>See how public documents can be used in investigative business reporting </li></ul>
  48. 49. <ul><li>The secret to investigative business reporting is… </li></ul><ul><li>Start with: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Google </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lexis-Nexis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Factiva </li></ul></ul>
  49. 50. <ul><li>You don’t need to know where all the public documents are </li></ul><ul><li>You need to know what questions to ask to find them </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: </li></ul>
  50. 51. <ul><li>Baltimore Sun investigation: Supermarket bankruptcy </li></ul><ul><li>Words of wise editor: “The good reporters know what’s missing” </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking: I never know what’s missing </li></ul><ul><li>Did you check for hidden depositions? </li></ul><ul><li>Not in court record: ads of cash in </li></ul><ul><li>brown paper bags </li></ul><ul><li>Before the jump on A1 </li></ul>
  51. 52. <ul><li>What are they? </li></ul><ul><li>Where do you get them? </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Company Web site </li></ul></ul>
  52. 53. <ul><li>10k </li></ul><ul><li>10 Q: What’s the first thing to look for? </li></ul><ul><li>Proxy: What’s the first thing to look for? </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : Do you regularly use SEC filings in your reporting? Y or N? </li></ul><ul><li>SEC public filings only go so far </li></ul><ul><li>What is considered “material” to investors? </li></ul><ul><li>Material: Any information related to a particular business that might be relevant to an investor's decision to buy, sell or hold a security </li></ul><ul><li>A company can slice its business into small sectors that don’t require disclosure </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: AOL </li></ul>
  53. 55. <ul><li>Former employees </li></ul><ul><li>Sworn testimony </li></ul><ul><li>Copies of contracts </li></ul><ul><li>Business strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Where to find lawsuits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State and federal suits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Many online </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If not online, check Lexis-Nexis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If not there, check Pacer for federal suits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> (not free) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pulling documents </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Big issue? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poll : Would it be difficult to get funds at your news organization to get such documents? Y or N? </li></ul></ul>
  54. 56. <ul><li>Goldmine </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pacer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For what? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Creditors; assets; debts; lawyers; suppliers; vendors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Key kinds? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chapter 7: liquidation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chapter 11: reorganization </li></ul></ul>
  55. 57. <ul><li>SEC </li></ul><ul><li>FCC </li></ul><ul><li>FDA </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Key: on almost every investigative business story, there is a government body that has some connection to it </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Congressional Testimony </li></ul><ul><li>Contradictions </li></ul><ul><li>Remember the tobacco executives who claimed they didn’t know anything about the addictive power of cigarettes? </li></ul>
  56. 58. <ul><li>Company e-mail </li></ul><ul><li>Internal newsletters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Get on the mailing list, if possible </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Remember: Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t break into computer system </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chiquita Banana case </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Wall Street analyst reports </li></ul>
  57. 59. <ul><li>Property records: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>County or other local office </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Good to check for: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Size, details of executive’s home </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Other great resources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Planning department </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Zoning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Construction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Driver records </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Depends on state; eg. Maryland, need permission of driver for records </li></ul></ul></ul>
  58. 60. <ul><li>Better Business Bureau </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer complaints </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Uniform Commercial Code </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State records, secretary of state usually; shows who has borrowed money, what used as collateral, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Incorporation records </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually secretary of state; records of founding of the business; who owns it; its executives; etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hoovers </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  59. 61. <ul><li>Can get detailed tax filings—990s—of their finances from the nonprofits themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Or try Guidestar at </li></ul>
  60. 62. <ul><li>Airplane ownership search </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Finding lawyers </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Message boards, blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Web site ownership </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Internet archive: old Web sites </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>ProfNet: e-mail queries for experts </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  61. 63. <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> international directory </li></ul><ul><li>AutoTrack and other pay Sites: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expensive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Metered </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Even at The Washington Post: key holder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But good resource for information for investigative or beat reporting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Personal information: telephone numbers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Neighbors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Legal judgments </li></ul></ul></ul>
  62. 64. <ul><li> Center for Responsive Politics </li></ul><ul><li>Lobbyists and Other Legislative Resources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li> : lobbying </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> : lobbying on behalf of foreign entities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Congressional Research Service: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>GAO Reports: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thomas Web site: : basic legislation, Congressional reports and records </li></ul></ul><ul><li> Political Moneyline </li></ul><ul><li> Center for Public Integrity </li></ul><ul><li> The Institute on Money in State Politics </li></ul>
  63. 65. <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Born, married, died </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Previous addresses, relatives, associates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lawsuits, bankruptcies, divorce, criminal, traffic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Home phone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Attended college </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real estate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Courtesy of Duff Wilson of The New York Times </li></ul><ul><li>Truth About Criminal Records: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There is a national criminal record database but it is not available to the public </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>FBI database </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public access to criminal records controlled at the state level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each state has different rules about who may access records and what records will be available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some records handled at the county level </li></ul></ul>
  64. 66. <ul><li>FOIA: the good and the bad </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Secret bonuses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Oh, that bonus” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reprocessors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>List of reprocessors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No List </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>List </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Names missing from list </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Poll : Have you filed a FOIA request? Y or N? </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : How helpful have you found it? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A) Very </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B) Moderately </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>C) Not at all </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Beware: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They might leave stuff out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Of fishing expeditions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Of unexpected costs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sample FOIA letters: </li></ul><ul><li>FOIA letter generator: </li></ul>
  65. 68. <ul><li>Not public </li></ul><ul><li>They may say “Confidential” </li></ul><ul><li>You need to interpret, analyze, translate </li></ul>
  66. 70. <ul><li>Please feel free to contact me at [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>And please feel free to e-mail to me questions that you would like to ask our panel of investigative business journalists for Friday’s online chat </li></ul>
  67. 71. <ul><li>Presented by </li></ul><ul><li>Alec Klein, professor </li></ul><ul><li>Medill School of Journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Northwestern University </li></ul>
  68. 72. <ul><li>Examine effective approaches to organizing, writing and presenting the investigative business story </li></ul>
  69. 73. <ul><li>Identify ways to organize information during the investigative business reporting process </li></ul><ul><li>Look at ways to organize material during the investigative business writing process </li></ul><ul><li>Review ways to present investigative business stories across platforms </li></ul>
  70. 74. <ul><li>Develop your own system </li></ul><ul><li>Be your own best secretary </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s not glamorous but someone has to do it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Keeping track of mounds of documents, notepads, calls—need to be organized </li></ul></ul><ul><li>My system: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Daily log </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phone log </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact list </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cork board </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Visualize key players </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Calendar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Themes </li></ul></ul></ul>
  71. 75. <ul><li>The lede: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hours or days or weeks of anguish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blood on the computer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should’ve done something else </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work with hands </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Like a farmer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poll : Do you know what I’m talking about? Y or N? </li></ul></ul>
  72. 76. <ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;You can't beat the prices,&quot; said the hotel cashier, who makes $400 a week. &quot;I come here because it's cheap.&quot; </li></ul>Image by flickr user Lone Primate
  73. 77. <ul><li>Classic anecdotal lede </li></ul><ul><li>Simple, straight forward </li></ul><ul><li>Nothing fancy about it </li></ul><ul><li>Quote that gets to the heart of the story: “You can’t beat the prices” </li></ul><ul><li>We can do this </li></ul><ul><li>The Los Angeles Times; that’s the lede from a series that won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting </li></ul>
  74. 78. <ul><li>Me in the old days: Frantically flipping through notebook searching for the lede </li></ul><ul><li>Not there </li></ul><ul><li>Me now: Report the lede beforehand so you don’t have to search for it later in your notes </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: Lede to Stealing Time--grumpy old man </li></ul><ul><li>WSJ approach to ledes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All about the purity of the lede </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Must be exactly on point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not sort of the point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Joke: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Colon </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Question mark </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pithy-sentence lede </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  75. 79. <ul><li>KISS </li></ul><ul><li>Keep </li></ul><ul><li>It </li></ul><ul><li>Simple </li></ul><ul><li>Stupid </li></ul>
  76. 80. <ul><li>Okay, enough about the torture of writing </li></ul><ul><li>Here’s an overlooked aspect of writing: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The sound of the story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rarely is it premeditated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It should be </li></ul></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Lisa Pollak’s story </li></ul><ul><li>Baltimore Sun </li></ul><ul><li>Winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing </li></ul>
  77. 81. <ul><li>Read a book or other story that reflects what you’re doing </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: Writing about the civil war </li></ul><ul><li>Read the classic, Killer Angels </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote lede to reenactment of the Gettysburg Battle </li></ul><ul><li>Using old English </li></ul><ul><li>Should’ve mentioned </li></ul><ul><li>it to my editors </li></ul>
  78. 82. <ul><li>Let’s Get Down to the Nitty Gritty: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizing the investigative business story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How I do it: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Divide by interviewee </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Annotate my own notes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Develop a detailed outline from the notes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Review and re-review the notes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can take days—or weeks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>But you have a roadmap </li></ul></ul></ul>
  79. 83. <ul><li>The nut: everyone knows the nut, right? </li></ul><ul><li>How about the so-what graf: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Otherwise known, at least to me, as the cosmic point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The reason why we’re reading your story </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Examples: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Greed </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hubris </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ambition </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The To-Be-Sure Clause: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wall Street Journal thing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The exception to the rule, or the trend </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up high </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To immunize yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Because there’s always an exception </li></ul></ul>
  80. 84. <ul><li>Give the company or individual plenty of time to react and respond </li></ul><ul><li>Not enough to call the night before </li></ul><ul><li>Call, e-mail, stop by—and repeatedly </li></ul><ul><li>To wit: AOL </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Six weeks, an eternity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Risk: story leaks to competitors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But must be done </li></ul></ul>
  81. 85. <ul><li>One of my last Washington Post investigations in 2008: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Military contracting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In desert in suit (not a good idea) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Carrying notepad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digital camera </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Camcorder </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Poll : Are you actively using multimedia in your reporting? Y or N? </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : For your reporting, have you used a: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A) Audio recorder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B) Digital camera </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>C) Camcorder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>D) All of the above </li></ul></ul>
  82. 86. <ul><li>Now, we are all photographers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When you’re shooting, take a lot of pictures—at least 100 images </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Camera is your notepad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Record moments as they unfold </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t wait for the perfect moment </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The first way you view a scene is not always the best </li></ul><ul><li>Try different shooting angles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eye level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From above on a chair </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From below on the floor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Look for the inherent logic of the shot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>eg,. a shot of giant might be better from a higher angle </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t shoot everything from a wide angle </li></ul><ul><li>Look for other opportunities, such as close-ups, which can have more impact </li></ul><ul><li>Imagine, say, an expressive face </li></ul>
  83. 87. <ul><li>We’re now all in the business of gathering audio </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Online audio stories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Online audio with photos—slideshows </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All you need: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A digital camera </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A digital recorder that can connect to a computer to download audio files </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Audio Slideshows: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You need to show how the story begins </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the subject gets from point A to B to C </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Show in the photos what the audio is telling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The photos must match the audio </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So take lots of pictures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Helps to ensure that images match sound </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually: you don’t want a single image to linger onscreen for more than 10 seconds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For a three-minute slideshow, plan for at least 18 photos </li></ul></ul>
  84. 88. <ul><li>There are two kinds of sound </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Natural sound, or “nats” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For a slideshow, you usually need natural sound—eg., the sound of bacon frying in the background, the roar of the crowd </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Turn on the recorder, point it at the natural sound and capture a lot of it </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>May help later during editing to bridge sections of your audio story </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Interviews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Beware of loud background sound </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Move interview subject away from that noise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hold the recorder close to the subject, within a foot and a half </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid talking over the interviewee: “Uh huh” et al </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If necessary: Nod head </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beware of wind </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stay away from yes or no questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask open-ended questions: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  85. 89. <ul><li>We are all videographers now </li></ul><ul><li>Use a variety of focal lengths and angles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Establishing shot, wide, tells the viewer where the story is taking place </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Medium sot: takes the viewer closer to the action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tight: close up </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No zooms or pans </li></ul><ul><li>Shoot and move: Zoom with your feet </li></ul><ul><li>Limit motion of the camera; use set shots </li></ul>
  86. 90. <ul><li>The rule of thirds: Divide the screen into thirds, with subject taking up one of the thirds—more visually arresting </li></ul><ul><li>Rule of 180 degrees </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which way is the subject’s nose pointing? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stay on that side </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t switch sides </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disorients viewer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Jump Cuts: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Common mistake </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two things don’t match visually </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To wit: Person is in one spot; in the next frame, he magically jumps to another spot </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>One way to avoid jump cuts: have person or action come into and out of frame before moving on </li></ul></ul>
  87. 91. <ul><li>Walk away from the story </li></ul><ul><li>Put yourself in the subject’s shoes </li></ul><ul><li>Is it fair? </li></ul><ul><li>Go through the story line by line </li></ul><ul><li>Different than fact checking; it’s all in the nuances </li></ul><ul><li>Poll : Have you ever been the subject of a profile? Y or N? </li></ul>
  88. 92. <ul><li>The story may carry your name but it belongs to the paper, Web site, television station </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a communal project; must get buy in; editors must be on board </li></ul><ul><li>Must be willing to let go of the language; be amenable to change </li></ul><ul><li>One third of the investigative business story is the reporting </li></ul><ul><li>Another third is the writing </li></ul><ul><li>The final third is the in-house hurdles </li></ul>
  89. 93. <ul><li>Please feel free to contact me at [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>And please feel free to e-mail to me questions that you would like to ask our panel of investigative business journalists for Friday’s online chat </li></ul>
  90. 94. <ul><li>Please join me tomorrow at 1 p.m EST for an online chat with some of the nation’s leading investigative business journalists </li></ul><ul><li>The online chat will include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Alexandra Berzon of the Wall Street Journal whose work led the Las Vegas Sun to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in public service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gary Cohn, winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting at the Baltimore Sun </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mark Maremont, part of a team of reporters whose investigative stories earned The Wall Street Journal the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in public service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Larry Roberts, executive editor of the nonprofit Huffington Post Investigative Fund and former investigations editor at The Washington Post who has directly overseen three Pulitzer Prize winners </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bill Sizemore, investigative reporter at The Virginian-Pilot who was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting </li></ul></ul>
  91. 95. <ul><li>Look forward to tomorrow’s online chat </li></ul><ul><li>And please feel free to contact with me with any questions </li></ul>