Tackling the hardest part of investigative reporting

July 07, 2022
By Callie Morgan

While the investigative reporting process can be intimidating, journalists often find writing to be the hardest part. How do you know which experts to cite and which sources to quote? Which documents are the most useful and accessible to a potential reader? Is there a straightforward way to translate hours, if not days, of research and interviews into a coherent and compelling narrative?  

CCIJ attempted to answer some of those questions in our June training session: “From Notebook to Story: Planning and Implementing your Writing Approach.” In this 75-minute presentation, Yaffa Fredrick, CCIJ’s editorial director, and Lois Henry, founder of SJV Water, a nonprofit news site covering water issues in California, presented on how to begin the writing process and what sorts of questions to ask yourself as you move through it. The two journalists recently collaborated on two investigative stories into the illicit movement of water in Central California – and brought their shared experiences to the training.

The writer-editor duo provided tips and tricks on how to start projects with outlines and annotated to-do lists, how to frame stories around compelling characters and how to use language and data points that resonate with your audience. They also discussed how they applied these strategies to their award-winning stories, “The Central California Town That Keeps Sinking,” published in The New York Times, and “Where is the Water Going?,” published on the CCIJ and SJV sites, respectively. 

Over 40 of our community members participated in the Zoom training, listening attentively and asking questions after Fredrick and Henry concluded their presentation. We are grateful for their contributions, and we hope these tips equip our members with a working toolkit as they strive to expose greed, corruption and injustice around the world. 

To stay in the loop about upcoming trainings, follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. If you attended the training and would like to provide your feedback, please fill out the post-session evaluation

A quick reminder that we are looking for CCIJ members to feature on our podcast, Transparency Talks. If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact Callie Morgan at c.morgan@ccij.io.