TIPS FROM THE REPORTERS
When doing stories that include the prison system
(From the IRE Resource Center)*
1 Use the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws to obtain government documents such as staff lists and to identify potential sources.
2 Create Web pages to complement the stories so that you can generate feedback and more tips.
3 Find an editor who supports you and urges you to keep digging.
4 Keep calling and emailing and writing sources who are recalcitrant. Go overboard and beg them to call you.
5 Keep meticulous records on the date and time of each attempt to contact
a source who doesn't want to talk. That will prevent a source saying the story was unfair because the reporter did not try to contact them.
6 Keep calling helpful sources. They will remember more with each call.
7 After the story runs, call the officials who might be the angriest and ask if there are new developments. They sometimes are anxious to talk after the story runs.
8 Go to extra efforts to identify both perpetrators and victims by names in this kind of story. It adds to the credibility of the story.
*Based on the reporting of Daniel Zwerdling of National Public Radio for his 2-part report on "Abuse of Immigrant Detainees," which aired on NPR on November 17 & 18, 2004.
Read the original reporting and watch the full Exposé episode about Zwerdling and his investigation online.