Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Applied Fact Finding

Today was a good one for actually showing up to class.

Paisley Dodds, the Associated Press London bureau chief, spoke to the class about her experience breaking the abuse cases at Guantanamo. Some points she made:

  • tenacity is one of the most important qualities a journalist can have
  • Freedom of Information Act requests are a strategy, not a starting place

While FOIA requests can get you access to information, if you start your investigation by submitting it, the entity then has time to spin their response in a favorable light.

  • the military is not fun to try to get information from
  • verify, verify, verify
  • make sure you have the backing and resources of your corporation/editor before you get in over your head

Following this, Dr. Armstrong took public records out of their boring, manila folder context. She showed us a few different ways they can add to a story or be manipulated for a story.

Finally, she reviewed some steps that lead to good investigative reporting and writing.

  • Conception: pay attention and come up with an idea
  • Do-ability: do you have the resources to do it?
  • Base-building: preliminary research
  • Planning: who is involved and how will information be collected?
  • Original Research: track down them records!
  • Evaluation: have? need?
  • Filling the Gaps: answer leftover questions
  • Final Evaluation: Ethics

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