The Shipbreakers by Gary Cohn


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Gary Cohn presents "The Shipbreakers" at the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism's workshop, "Investigative Business Journalism on a Beat." For more information, please visit

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The Shipbreakers by Gary Cohn

  1. 1. The Shipbreakers
  2. 2. Anatomy of an investigative story <ul><li>Learn the fundamentals of reporting and writing – and you can do groundbreaking investigative work </li></ul>
  3. 3. How a local beat reporter discovered the Shipbreaking story
  4. 4. Getting started <ul><li>An editor’s key question – How does this industry operate everyplace else? </li></ul><ul><li>What would you do? Where would you start? </li></ul>
  5. 5. The workers – the heart of this story
  6. 6. The workers: obstacles we faced <ul><li>How do you find workers and persuade them to talk on the record </li></ul>
  7. 7. An ethical dilemma <ul><li>Balancing the need to get workers to talk on the record </li></ul><ul><li>versus </li></ul><ul><li>A desire to protect them from being fired for speaking out or deported </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Shipbreakers persuading them to talk
  9. 9. Getting the Navy to answer our questions <ul><li>What to do when someone won’t talk to you </li></ul><ul><li>An alternate strategy to get answers from the Navy </li></ul>
  10. 10. Public Records <ul><li>Court records – Mendoza case in Brownsville </li></ul><ul><li>Bankruptcy Court records – underlying economics of the shipbreaking industry </li></ul><ul><li>FOIA </li></ul><ul><li>OSHA records </li></ul>
  11. 11. The key economic issues <ul><li>Understanding the economics of the shipbreaking business was a key to cracking this story. </li></ul><ul><li>Public records, revealing sources </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Asbestos Issue <ul><li>The issues, the science </li></ul>
  13. 13. The Asbestos Issue <ul><li>Finding and talking to victims – how we found the men who built these Navy ships decades ago </li></ul><ul><li>The two key questions to ask yourself when looking for hard-to-find information </li></ul>
  14. 14. Taking the local story global <ul><li>How we learned about the US Navy’s plan to send its old ships overseas for scrapping </li></ul>
  15. 15. Reporting in India <ul><li>Strategies for reporting investigative business stories overseas </li></ul>
  16. 16. How to deal with obstacles overseas <ul><li>Stringers and fixers </li></ul><ul><li>The language problem – and the use of interpreters </li></ul>
  17. 17. The Writing Process <ul><li>How we decided what stories to tell </li></ul><ul><li>Pulling the project together </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of clear and compelling writing when telling an investigative or complex business investigative story </li></ul>
  18. 18. Impact and follow-up <ul><li>Congress holds hearings </li></ul><ul><li>The White House prohibits the Navy from sending old warships to the Third World </li></ul>
  19. 19. Why was this a good topic for an investigative story <ul><li>Told readers something they didn’t know </li></ul><ul><li>Revealed a systemic wrong </li></ul><ul><li>Possibility of reform </li></ul>
  20. 20. A tough balancing act <ul><li>How you can successfully cover your beat – and also pursue big stories </li></ul><ul><li>Tips for convincing your editors to give you the extra time you need </li></ul>
  21. 21. Questions
  22. 22. Summary <ul><li>You can do groundbreaking investigative work if you master the fundamentals of reporting and writing </li></ul>