TIPS FROM THE REPORTERS
When covering the aftermath of natural disasters
(From the IRE Resource Center)*
1 Get started with maps on the Web such as FEMA's Mapping & Analysis Center and make sure to save them to your hard drive in case they are removed from the Web site.
2 Use the Federal Register for Presidential Declarations and Amendments to identify places that have been declared disasters and are eligible for assistance.
3 Get local data and breakdowns by county levels.
4 Create maps of damaged property and then compare them to damaged property reports.
5 Data won't do it alone. You need to get supporting documentation and solid interviews.
6 Talk to local residents and business owners who will know if fraud is widespread.
7 Check the background of inspectors.
8 Use commercial databases when necessary. Try Accurint, Nexis and AutoTrackXP to obtain addresses, phone numbers and names. Keep track of it all in an Excel spreadsheet.
*Based on the reporting of Sally Kestin, Megan O'Matz, John Maines, and Jon Burstein of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for "FEMA: A Legacy of Waste," a series of over 70 articles chronicling the Federal Emergency Management Agency's gross mismanagement of disaster relief funds.
Read the original reporting and watch the full Exposé episode about the reporters and their investigation online.