Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pulitzer-winning reporter tells students the key to investigative journalism: old-fashioned digging

We love to peek in on what journalism students are learning these days, and this story has some good reminders for the rest of us:

A Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter reminded some journalism students this week that good old-fashioned digging is the most important part of investigative reporting. Kimbriell Kelly, who calls herself a "data nerd," spoke Sept. 25 to students at South Dakota State University about "what it takes to get to the bottom of big stories such as police shootings and her more recent work: police officers who are fired and then get rehired at their former departments," Executive Director David Bordewyk reports for the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

Kimbriell Kelly talks to student journalists. (S. Dakota Newspaper Assn. photo)
The key to getting that information is getting access to government records, through Freedom of Information Act requests if necessary. "Kelly’s reporting the last few years has focused extensively on law enforcement and criminal justice," Bordewyk reports. "But she also has tackled other big topics as well. Before coming to the Post, she was a reporter in Chicago where she investigated housing inequities that later helped lead to large settlements from Countrywide Financial over unfair lending practices to minorities."

Her advice for journalists who need government records and information? Know your state's open government laws well, since FOIA laws can vary greatly from state to state, and ask the state attorney general's office for help when you're denied access to records. The attorney general's office understands the FOIA laws in its state and can help you navigate an appeal.

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