A 2016 tip sheet offering a step-by-step guide to finding information about people while covering a crime-related story on deadline.
So you’re on deadline with breaking news about a crime committed in your community but officials are releasing only basic details: a few facts about the crime and the name and birth date of a person alleged to be involved. Your audience – and your editor – are demanding to know as much about this individual as possible, as quickly as possible. What do you do? How do you report on someone when you have so little information?
The staff at Journalist’s Resource has compiled a list of steps that we, ourselves, have used to track down large amounts of information on deadline. While this list may come in handy when covering crime, our strategies also can be used for gathering information on individuals in many other scenarios.
It’s worth pointing out that before starting any fact-finding mission, journalists should be familiar with the public-record laws in their states. They need to know what records are available and which ones are accessible by the public. (A free, state-by-state guide to public records is posted on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website.)
Here’s how we find information about a person connected to a crime on deadline: