Investigating government and non-profits with FOI tools

If you’re looking for some good enterprise stories for the New Year, try digging through some open records.  Joel Campbell is a member of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee and he’s put together a good list of story ideas and resources in Quill Magazine.

  • Look for big salaries in non-profits.  Request IRS Form 990 to get a list of the five highest-paid employees in a non-profit organization.  Campbell says you can then compare paychecks with those in similar organizations.
  • Check out school non-profit foundations.  Campbell says these foundations have become a big part of local school districts and universities.  How much money is really spent on athletics?  You may find the amount is much bigger than most people realize since the expenditure of private foundation money is seldom reported.

Campbell also says there are several good websites for FOI story ideas, which may make good bookmarks for the reporter looking for more meaty stories.

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