In the early 1970s when reporters from The Washington Post broke the Watergate Scandal - journalists and the general public realized that reporters not only record events. By digging into areas that might not otherwise come into light, they can also shape events. Investigative news stories come into being in either of two ways:
- The reporter receives a tip from an employee or civil servant with an axe to grind, from an individual who has something to gain be exposing something, or from someone who believes he is doing the right thing.
- The reporter happens to come across something unusual in reading an official document.
- A reporter should not depend or never accept on face value what an individual tells him. He should ask questions and evaluate whether he or she may have a motive for giving him an incorrect tip.
- When pursuing a tip, a reporter should try to find another independent person who can corroborate part or all of the story. The person who provided him with the tip can help him find such an individual. And a reporter should also find someone who will comment on the reliability of his original source.
- A reporter should check any available documents or records that may corroborate or contradict the tip.
- If the source of his tip says something that could eventually lead to a lawsuit, the reporter should let his source sign the reporter's notebook that is to avoid the reporter not be accused of libel.
- Before interviewing people, a reporter should introduce himself/herself as a journalist.
- A reporter should always cross check all facts up until the time his story is printed. It is the best way to guard against errors.