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Tools of the Craft

  • Fact Checking
  • Getting Started - Keeping Current
  • Don't Limit Your Audience
  • How to Interview
  • Protecting Your Sources
  • What is Investigative Journalism?
  • The Muckraking Tradition
  • Using Style Sheets for Publication
  • Power Structure Research
  • Basics of Responsible Journalism


    Investigative Journalism:
    Start Here

    Real investigative journalism is hard work, there is nothing magic involved, but there are lots of clever techniques.

    Here are two excellent places to start:

    Resources for Investigative Journalists from the Nation Institute, Investigative Fund.

    Get the Facts on Anyone, 3rd ed. which explains how to use public sources to check the background of any person or organization, by Dennis King, (New York: Macmillan; Arco, 1999).

    Use the Freedom of Information Act:

    The Freedom of Information Act applies only to document held by federal agencies. Guides can be found at:

    Use State Open Records and Sunshine Laws

    These vary by state, so refer to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ guide to what information is available in which states:

    Local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union often have information on (or even guides to) using the state laws.

    Join the National Writers Union!

    113 University Pl. 6th Fl.          
    New York, NY 10003
    Voice: (212) 254-0279

    Join Investigative Reporters & Editors

    Ask for information on the student membership. Publishes The IRE Journal.
    Highly recommended is IRE’s The Reporter’s Handbook: An Investigator’s Guide to Documents & Techniques, (NY: St. Martins, updated periodically). IRA also collects information on how to conduct specific types of investigations based on actual projects by members and hosts annual & regional conferences.

    Investigative Reporters & Editors
    138 Neff Annex
    Missouri School of Journalism
    Columbia, MO. 65211


    These pages are adapted from a course, "Strategic Research, Analysis and Reporting," developed by Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, and Abby Scher
    for theZ Media Institute hosted by Z Magazine in Woods Hole Massachusetts.
    Please do not copy or distribute material from these pages.
    Links are welcome.
    All material unless attributed to a specific author is
    © 1968-2015 by Research for Progress

    All Z Media Institute material © 1997-2015 by
    Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, & Abby Scher


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    Videos Online

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    Civic Education

    Elements of Democracy: The Overall Concept

    Basic Concepts, from Magruder's, Chapter One

    Essential Elements: The International Consensus

    Democracy Activism

    Frances Moore Lappé, Doing Democracy: 10 Practical Arts Handbook, Small Planet Institute.

    Bill Moyer, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley & Steve Soifer, Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, New Society Publishers.

    Higher Education

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    Democracy is not a specific set of institutions but a process that requires dissent.
    - - -
    Democracy is a process that assumes the majority of people, 
    over time, given enough accurate information,
    the ability to participate in a free and open public debate,
    and to vote without intimidation,
    reach constructive decisions that benefit the whole of society, and 
    preserve liberty, protect our freedoms, extend equality,
    and thus defend democracy itself. 


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    Site curated by Chip Berlet