TIPS FROM THE REPORTERS
When doing stories on government contracts
(From the IRE Resource Center)*
Develop a broad and deep network of sources within a department and its agencies to understand the system and get documents.
Be persistent in seeking documents.
Don't rely only on Freedom of Information requests to get documents.
Master the system and the documents within the system. Take a class about a topic if you need to understand it.
Don't just skim documents. Read contract documents closely for nuances and problems.
Think constantly about how to translate difficult material into stories that people can understand.
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.
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.