TIPS FROM THE REPORTERS
When doing stories that include the prison system
(From the IRE Resource Center)*
Use the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws to obtain government documents such as staff lists and to identify potential sources.
Create Web pages to complement the stories so that you can generate feedback and more tips.
Find an editor who supports you and urges you to keep digging.
Keep calling and emailing and writing sources who are recalcitrant. Go overboard and beg them to call you.
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.
Keep calling helpful sources. They will remember more with each call.
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.
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 November 17 & 18, 2004.
Read the original reporting and watch the full Exposé episode about Zwerdling and his investigation online.