Spying on activists and spinning journalists – a review of Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark

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 […]

How to find out what data an organisation holds – use the Data Protection Register

Here’s a useful tip if you’re thinking of requesting information from an organisation – or just looking for ideas: check the Data Protection Register first. All organisations who collect data must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office. A copy of the public register is available to search on their website. You can search by name, […]

FOIA Without the Lawyer – review and highlights

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 […]

Mapping bus stops in your local area

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. Does the data exist? Searching in the right place I started my search for bus stop data at Google’s Tables search […]

Court reporting – a guide from the investigative journalism summer school

Paul Cheston is the last specialist court reporter for newspapers in the UK. Court reporting may be a dying trade, but Cheston feels that this leaves gaps in the market for investigators to fill. This year at the CIJ Summer School, he offered a practical guide to court reporting which we have summarised below… Why […]

Organising investigations: a guide to story-based inquiry

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 […]

Understanding company accounts: How to get the most of Companies House

At the CIJ Summer School this year Robert Miller, Martin Tomkinson and Raj Bairoliya 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 […]

5 tips on mining and using big data for journalists

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 […]

How to get scoops from local councils

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… What is ‘expenditure’? Individual invoices Grant payments Expense payments Payments for goods and services Credit notes Transactions with other public […]

6 top tips on interviewing from Melanie McFadyean

At the CIJ Summer School this year, Melanie McFadyean gave tricks and tips for successful interviewing. We’ve summarised the top six tips below… 1. Do extensive background research… …so unnecessary questions are not asked. These waste time and not knowing the background looks unprofessional to the interviewee. Knowing key information also helps to back up […]