These are the secrets to success that we give to you for free. Why are we doing that?
Because we want you to join our research revolution. If you’re very good we will hire you. How do you get our attention? You discover something timely and truthful that is interesting.
- Pick a target. There’s no story if there’s no “who” or “what.”
- Follow and Observe the targets on Twitter, on Facebook, online. Read every single thing you can about them. Know how to modify your LinkedIn privacy settings to view other accounts anonymously, in “Private mode.” Search their targets’ writings online to see if you can detect patterns of behavior or networks.
- Boil it down. If you can’t explain it in 100 characters or fewer you, haven’t finished.
- Simplify. Make a claim. Back it up with a document.
- Is this story already out there? Maybe. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
- Timing is everything. Timing is everything. Timing is everything. Why is the story relevant now?
- Look for unguarded moments.
- Start with earlier in a career. College, high school, first marriage.
- Look at the family as well. Power couples, family businesses.
- Follow the money and the followers or friends.
- You can monitor lobbying activity, on a quarterly basis, through the Lobbying Disclosure Act database.
- You can query some foundations’ charitable giving through the Foundation Center database.
- Begin with paper; end with people.
- You may use phone conversations, provided they are recorded and you release the unedited audio and a transcript. You may use phone conversations, but provided they are recorded and you release the unedited audio and a transcript. But consult your local law as to whether consent is required from the other party for recordings. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press maintains a database of state-by-state recording-consent laws.
- Every public figure has a story that he or she tells.
- Make chaos. The more chaos, the more your Black Swan out of the box style thinking will work.
- Most public figures are more fragile than they appear. Most success is built on a series of lies.
- Eschew politically correct explanations of complex phenomena.
- Violate taboos but don’t break laws.
- Trust nothing anyone ever writes that you can’t prove for yourself.
- Humans are tribal more than they are ideological.
- Get a Lexis-Nexis account (or get access to one).
- Familiarize yourself with Worldcat.org for finding difficult to find books or records.
- Build close relationships with other researchers, hackers, photographers, bartenders, truck drivers, Uber drivers, cops.
- Be willing to pay for documents or videos.
- Content is king but distribution is key. Build networks of like-minded researchers.
- Keep your files and notes organized from Day One.
- Use quotation marks when searching.
- Every public figure has a story they hope NO ONE will tell.
- Learn how to do a PDF search.
- Familiarize yourself with Gov databases like FEC, SEC and how to use them.
- Learn how to weed through and understand “Legal-ese.”
- Pay attention to obscure terminology and acronyms. Government entities, in particular, use their own keywords. A hammer is never called a “hammer” in Govt speak*.
- Screenshot, screenshot, screenshot!
- Keep your mind open when starting your research. Drawing premature conclusions will limit what you find EVERY time.
*This is how Kevin Mitnick “hacked” the phone company so many times. He knew the internal lingo so well that he could pass for a 20 year Ma Bell vet whenever he was on the phone to the main office. He learned all their internal terminology by dumpster diving for memos and employee handbooks.
Feedly (news feed monitoring)
Move through published stories on websites that you monitor as fast as you go through tweets by “J-walking” (Hitting the J or K keys on your keyboard allows you to toggle through dozens of stories per minute). Organize your feeds into your own categorization scheme and strip out all that pesky formatting. Feedly also integrates with other tools like Bit.ly, Buffer, OneNote, Pocket, HootSuite and DropBox to speed your workflow and archiving process.
Fotor (free online photo editing)
Do you need an effective and free online photo editing application? Fotor provides a suite of image processing tools ranging from basic cropping to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing, Fotor delivers professional-level photo editing accessible to anyone in a webpage.
FOIA Machine (quicker Freedom of Information Act requests)
FOIA Machine is an open-source platform that empowers citizens and journalists to easily prepare, file and track multiple public records requests to various governmental and public agencies worldwide. This site helps users access government documents and data that are covered by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws allowing citizens to obtain information vital to the workings of their government.
Grammarly’s plagiarism checker crosschecks your text against over 8 billion web pages, detecting plagiarized passages and highlighting sections that have been previously published elsewhere.
Dropbox has a handy feature that lets you make screenshots, organize and share them automatically.
WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.