5 tips for journalists from a Pulitzer-winning researcher

April 22, 2016

When The Washington Post won its Pulitzer Prize for national reporting Monday, researcher Julie Tate’s name was among the contributors. Tate has now contributed to nine Pulitzer-winning entries.

In 2008, Erik Wemple wrote about Tate for Washington City Paper. Then, she worked on a staff of 13, but that team has since shrunk.

Over time, the work has changed, too.

“Our schedule has accelerated as the news cycle picked up pace,” she said. “Our research has become even more time-sensitive as we’re trying to find information first while being comprehensive.”

So what can journalists learn from researchers (especially for those who don’t have researchers on staff?) Tate had a few ideas.

Mix old methods with new ones

“We exploit lots of our old standard databases and augment that with all kinds of social media platforms,” she said. “Social media is so vast, allowing us to expand our research and make it more powerful.”

Be open to what you find

“We don’t always use a database for its intended purpose — sometimes there is just more in the records than what you might think,” she said, “and that leads us to a different path of reporting or research.”

Work together

At the Post, researchers collaborate with people around the newsroom who bring a diversity of skills, “making the journalism so much stronger.”

Do your research

“Research has an integral role in journalism,” Tate said. “I’ve been at The Post for almost 14 years and have been fortunate to work with amazing, talented teams of reporters and editors across the newsroom.”

Repeat

Return to your research and examine it in different ways, she said, to see what you might have missed.

“Research, like reporting, is always made stronger by going back and back and back to what you have found.”