Here is a sampling of places where I troll for story nuggets. Uncover national and local stories that are literally hiding in plain sight. Armed with my project checklist, I sift through these sites for stories that have value for my news organization and readers.
Government Accountability Office – Tap the power of Congressional research. GAO reports reveal many new data sources and document types. Search by topic.
Inspectors General Home Page – These federal watchdog reports contain countless story ideas scattered among dozens of government agencies. Use footnotes and source notes to locate new reservoirs of information. Lots of enterprise stories just waiting to be found. See Web Spotlight #1 for further details.
Justice Research and Statistics – This clearinghouse of crime data may help frame a few paragraphs in a daily story or spark watchdog ideas.
Defense Health Board – This rare and valuable site provides an unprecedented window into the military. Transcripts (look for the archive, too) reveal candid conversations – the kind of stuff you might never get in an interview. For instance, here’s a story I found in the transcripts that details how the military let a vaccine slip through it hands, giving rise to a lethal boot camp virus. Here is the follow-up reform story.
Library of Congress – This chestnut remains an efficient resource for getting legislative information. Following the path of a law reveals its own kind of stories. Sometimes, just reading the law can prove illuminating (hidden caveats; sweetheart provisions, etc.).
National Institutes of Health – This isn’t just a place to locate medical research. The site is also a window into tracking billions of dollars of public money that flow to universities, businesses and individuals. See link below in searchable databases to download or search. Countless feature stories and watchdog pieces lurk here.
Federal Procurement Database (federal contracts)
Guidestar (nonprofits group database)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – workplace violations)
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC – public company filings)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Warning Letters (warnings to medical practitioners and manufacturers)
National Institute of Health grants and medical research (downloadable databases)