5 top tips for understanding public documents

June 24, 2019

Public documents are widely seen as some of the most basic building blocks of good investigative journalism, although access to such documents varies from country to country. Public documents can help uncover the wealth of public figures, corruption in campaign finance or public spending by government officials. Understanding and scrutinizing public documents are essential to in-depth reporting and have helped tell some of the biggest investigative stories around the world. 

In the Global Investigative Journalism Network latest video, Floreen Simon, the Training Director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism explains what we mean by public records and how these documents can help investigative journalists do their job. Here is a summary of her top tips:

1. Do good research - Research is the backbone of every story. It will always your best defense against accusations of fake news or being sued for liable 

2. Be resourceful - Data and information will not always be readily available. That means you have to make connections and go through processes to get the information to tell your story.

3. Be critical - We cannot always rely on what is being given to us. We need to be accurate in what we report. Go beyond a summary report or press release and dig into the numbers.

4. Practice good storytelling - Effective stories are easily understood by readers. People must be able to relate their values to the story.

5. Always serve the public - Public interest must be where our motivation should come from. 

You can watch the video with Floreen Simon or visit the GIJN resource page on Freedom of Information.