Resources for Investigative Journalists

How to Submit a Successful FOIA request

Jasper Craven, who processed FOIA requests and analyzed documents while he worked at MuckRock, and is a prolific requester of public records, drafted this tip sheet on how to successfully extract public information from government agencies. He is currently interning at The Investigative Fund.

Tip sheet on submitting a FOIA request (PDF)

Tools for Shining Light on Dark Money

Lee Fang, a longtime Investigative Fund reporting fellow, joined David Sirota, senior investigations editor for the International Business Times and Maplight political reporter Andrew Perez to present a panel at the Investigative Reporters & Editors 2017 conference about the unreported donations and shadow interests influencing elections.

Tip sheet on finding 990s, nonprofits' grants and dark money spending (PDF)

Investigative Reporting on a Shoestring

Investigative Fund editor Esther Kaplan moderated this panel at the Investigative Reporters & Editors 2016 conference featuring Lee Fang, Investigative Fund reporter Kathryn Joyce, Investigative Fund senior editor Kelly Virella, Investigative Fund reporting fellow Seth Freed Wessler, and Investigative Fund reporter and Florida Center for Investigative Reporting executive director Trevor Aaronson.

Tip sheet on obtaining and analyzing documents (PDF)
Tip sheet on building a beat and cultivating sources (PDF)
Tip sheet on data skills, collaboration and encryption (PDF)

How to Write a Strong Story Proposal

Our deputy editor, Sarah Blustain, has spent years in newsrooms reading unsolicited pitches and created these reflections on how to write an effective letter that busy editors might actually answer.

Tip sheet on how to write a strong story proposal (PDF)

Simple Ways to Deepen Your Reporting

The Investigative Fund's Esther Kaplan co-led a journalism boot camp session for young women reporters sponsored by Women, Action and the Media in 2013 called J School Crash Course. The other presenters included Bryce Covert, Sandeep Junnarkar, Naomi Zeveloff, and Janet Reitman. Here is a tip sheet they jointly prepared for the event:

WAM tip sheet (pdf)

Muckraking 101: Documents You Can Use

In 2009, the Investigative Fund sponsored the first-ever investigative reporting training workshop for bloggers, at the annual Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh. The training, featuring Esther Kaplan; Bill Bastone, the founder of The Smoking Gun; Brant Houston, the former executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors; and investigative blogger Lindsay Beyerstein, laid out how bloggers can use simple investigative techniques to increase their impact. Participants in this practical workshop learned how to use free or cheap web tools to trace the assets of public officials, decipher the SEC filings of public companies, dig through court records, file Freedom of Information Act requests for government documents, and more.

Here are some of the useful resources made available at the workshop:

Investigative Reporting Workshop

In 2009, the Investigative Fund led an investigative training workshop for student journalists at the annual National Youth Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C. The training was led by Esther Kaplan and Investigative Fund reporter Sarah Posner. Here are the resources they created for the event, useful guides for using the web and the Freedom of Information Act to research companies and institutions and track down public documents: