Backgrounding: How to effectively find and vet information and data.

Class Project: Your role in requesting public records.

Assignment for Monday, Jan. 15

A fully formed individual story pitch using your research. This must detail the data you would need to obtain to do the story and lay out specifically what it would take to obtain the data, if you don’t already have it.


Reminder to please read at least two of the following projects before class on Wednesday, Jan. 10 and be prepared to ask questions of our guest via Skype, Margot Williams, who was involved with all of these investigations.

The Intercept:Trial and Terror

A year-long investigation by The Intercept reveals that more than half of the almost 800 people prosecuted on international terrorism-related charges since 9/11 have been released, often with no provision for supervision or ongoing surveillance. That’s not a reason to be alarmed, however, it’s a reason to be skeptical of what these prosecutions achieved in the first place. The FBI spends more than $3 billion a year on counterterrorism efforts, and every new terrorism prosecution provides new justification for that expense.

The Intercept’s analysis shows that the majority of the defendants had no direct contact with terrorist organizations. A large proportion of terrorism suspects who did have connections to terrorist groups were instead recruited as informants or cooperating witnesses and served little or no time in prison.
The Intercept created a database of terrorism prosecutions and sentencing information, which will continue to be updated regularly, that includes all cases designated as international terrorism-related prosecutions by the DOJ’s National Security Division.

 The 2017 University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: The mystery of the fleeing Americans
Last December, ICIJ Research Editor Margot Williams reported on the rapidly growing number of Americans abroad who are renouncing their US citizenship. For her story, she compiled a database of Americans who had recently cut ties with Uncle Sam. The database is now updated to reflect the latest figures.
NPR: Under Suspicion At The Mall Of America
Since Sept. 11, the nation’s leaders have warned that government can’t protect the country on its own — private businesses and civilians have to do their part, too. Now NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting have found that, at least in one community, these kinds of programs are entangling ordinary people with the police and FBI.
The New York Times: The Guantanamo Docket
Documents and research related to the roughly 780 people who have been sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison since 2002.
The Washington Post: Deadly Force
For its series that identified and analyzed patterns of reckless gunplay by city police officers who had little training or supervision.
1999 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Public Service


Written by Cheryl Phillips

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