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How Do Investigations Work At KPCC (And How Can You Help)?

KPCC's investigations team. From left to right: Aaron Mendelson, Mike Kessler, Rina Palta, Annie Gilbertson and Dana Amihere.
KPCC's investigations team. From left to right: Aaron Mendelson, Mike Kessler, Rina Palta, Annie Gilbertson and Dana Amihere.
Chava Sanchez/KPCC

Sometimes, it’s an anonymous tip. Other times, it’s the result of a conversation with colleagues or a seemingly irrelevant remark during a random conversation. But most often, our investigations start with a question:

Like everyone in the KPCC/LAist newsroom, the investigative team cares deeply about Los Angeles and Southern California. We listen closely to the community, so we can uncover the truth about issues you care about, too. We want to understand -- and tell you -- how our institutions work, or not. We want to meet the people who help things run smoothly and find out out who’s getting in the way. We want to hold the powerful to account. If something raises suspicion, we look into it to see if our instincts are correct. And if something or someone seems a little bit too good to be true, we’ll do the same.

So what, exactly does an investigative reporting project look like? Depends on the story.

We amass gigabytes of data. We request dozens of public records, and if we’re denied, we fight for our right to get them. We talk to experts. We seek out anyone and everyone who might be able to answer our questions or tell us which questions we should be asking. Then we talk to more people — people who might know someone who knows someone whose third cousin might know someone else who can help us.

We protect our sources.

We let facts lead us to new facts. We root out more information and let everything we learn dictate how a story should be told, whether on air, online or on demand.

We produce multiple drafts. We rewrite, revise, edit and fact check. Sometimes, this takes a few months. More often, it takes upwards of a year — whatever it takes to do the story justice.

In the best of circumstances, our work makes a real difference. It catches the eye of someone who can try to fix what’s broken. It leads to policy change or roots out corruption. Other times, it brings more sources out of the woodwork, leads us to do follow-up stories, or triggers other news outlets to chase the story, too.

The investigative team is small but ambitious. We are:

But we get plenty of investigative contributions from others in the newsroom, too, like data editor Dana Amihere, early childhood reporter Priska Neely, politics reporter Mary Plummer, and education reporter Kyle Stokes.

Do you have a tip for us? Is there an institution or an individual you think we should look into? If so, here’s how you can reach us.