March 6, 2017

Investigative reporters turn routine observations, reports, tips and conversations into questions about the way the world works. Curiosity is your starting point for great stories. Here are some places to begin:

  • Observation. Be curious about the people and places you see every day. Your questions may be the seed of an idea for an investigative story.
  • Tips. Tips can come from a person you know well or don’t know at all. Use tips as ideas that you can investigate, working quickly to find documents or other evidence that allows you to move forward with the story or dismiss the tip.
  • News briefs. When you read or hear a news story, even a brief one, ask: Why did that happen? Does it happen often? Is there a pattern that has gone unreported?
  • Audits, reports and research. Many reporters routinely get — or could get — government audits and reports. These may point out weaknesses in the system and can be the jumping-off point to conduct research on how long problems have existed, whether reforms were proposed that have not been implemented, and more.

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

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
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