TIPS FROM THE REPORTERS
When doing stories on government contracts
(From the IRE Resource Center)*
1 Develop a broad and deep network of sources within a department and its agencies to understand the system and get documents.
2 Be persistent in seeking documents.
3 Don't rely only on Freedom of Information requests to get documents.
4 Master the system and the documents within the system. Take a class about a topic if you need to understand it.
5 Don't just skim documents. Read contract documents closely for nuances and problems.
6 Think constantly about how to translate difficult material into stories that people can understand.
7 When working on federal contracts and lobbyists use Web sites such as sopr.senate.gov for looking at Senate lobbyist filings to see contract trends.
8 When backgrounding businesses that are publicly traded and you need to examine corporation filings with the government go to www.sec.gov
*Based on the reporting of Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow, Jr. of The Washington Post for "The High Price of Homeland Security," a series of articles published in 2005 that revealed the fraud, waste and abuse in the billions of dollars worth of contracts for security systems handed out in the wake of 9/11.
Read the original reporting and watch the full Exposé episode about the reporters and their investigation online.