Widening state surveillance of the web and stories about corporate phone hacking have made journalists increasingly concerned about the security of their communications. In this context Eveline Lubbers‘ book on corporate and police surveillance,Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark, is particularly timely.
The book focuses on a number of well-researched cases from the past two decades involving subterfuge by private companies and police – sometimes in collaboration with each other.
Each case provides key insights into the methods used to gather information on campaigners, activists and researchers, and to use that in strategies against them – but it also details strategies to mislead journalists and influence publishers.
It is in these latter cases that the book proves particularly valuable to journalists wishing to know the right questions to ask to avoid being ‘spun’. Continue reading →
I’ve been meaning to review FOIA Without the Lawyer for almost a year now. A natural companion to Heather Brooke’s introductory Your Right To Know, this takes the challenges that come after the FOI is submitted: the niggling exemptions and excuses used by public bodies to avoid supplying information requested under the Act.
In the process it details numerous ways of anticipating and responding to them, including various references to official guidance, tips from FOI officers, and experiences of journalists and others using FOI, all of which are hugely helpful. I’ve tried to summarise some of them here: Continue reading →
Recently I helped Pupul Chatterjee map bus stops in Birmingham for the BrumTransport. I thought I’d share the process here as it demonstrates a number of techniques in filtering data that isn’t helpfully categorised.
This year at the CIJ Summer School, Adjunct Professor, Mark Lee Hunter, explained how using hypotheses can frame and sell your story. A hypothesis is what the investigator wants to prove or disprove. It takes the best information you have into account and contains factual assertions that can be verified.
How hypotheses frame and sell your story
Hunter suggested three key tips on making a hypothesis work:
It needs to be approached slowly
It should be viewed in the easiest way possible
You do not want to jump ahead to the most difficult approach first
It is also important to consider the worthiness of an investigation before conducting it. If the hypothesis is of high importance and easy to establish, then the investigation is definitely worth pursuing. However, if it is of low importance and difficult to prove or disprove, then do not waste your time. Continue reading →
At the CIJ Summer School this year RobertMiller, MartinTomkinson and RajBairoliya explained how to access company accounts and how to get the most of Companies House.
In the UK, all limited companies and limited liability partnerships must file their accounts at Companies House, which has offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. There are more than two million registered firms and over 300,000 new companies incorporated each year, and Miller feels that Companies House is one of the main skills needed by journalists. Continue reading →
Matt Fowler is a freelance application developer and programmer who helps journalists understand and use big data. At the CIJ Summer School this year he gave some top tips in the field, which we have summarised below…
1. Double check privacy settings of your data
You don’t want private work being published on show for all to see.
2. Tidy up the data and make the structure simpler
This re-engineering effort can get details out and help you to discover information to turn into stories. Continue reading →
Since 2011, all councils have been required to publish expenditure on items over £500. At the CIJ Summer School this year, Paul Francis and Ted Jeory explained how to turn this information into a story… Continue reading →