Working on investigative reports? If you are looking at a system — a government program, juvenile courts, corporate regulation — your preparation should include:

  • Reading a report that will provide an overview and explain how the system is supposed to work.
  • Talking to someone who understands the system — a "road-map source." He or she can explain how the system is supposed to work — and point out aspects of the system that do not work.
  • Getting into the field and observing the system operating.

For example, let's say you are looking at government loans that are going to unqualified persons.

  • Find out who, by law and regulation, is eligible for these loans — and who is prohibited from getting them. Start by reading the law or regulations and some reports or audits about the program.
  • Talk with someone who has the authority to authorize this type of loan, someone who has taken out one of these loans or track down an expert who can tell you how the program really works.
  • Find out what the loans are used for, and, if possible, go into the field and see the results.

Taken from Introduction to Investigative Reporting, a self-directed course by Brant Houston at Poynter NewsU.

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