Nancy Barnes: A new link to Star Tribune investigators

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES
  • Updated: July 4, 2009 - 9:14 PM

On our website, connect with our journalists and do your own research.

Part of the core mission of any newsroom is to serve the best interests of the public by bringing to light stories, problems or information that might not otherwise be known. We also want to arm our readers with all the information and tools they need to help them solve their own problems in this increasingly complex world.

To help us better meet this core mission -- and help readers more easily connect with us -- our digital team has created a new section on our website, aptly called "The Investigators."

You'll find photos, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for all the reporters and editors specializing in various areas of investigations. We have been building this team over the last few months, and we're nearly done. Later this month, Jeffrey Meitrodt, who spent much of his career reporting and writing investigations for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, joins us as an investigative editor. Along with running the investigations team, he will share responsibility for overseeing the website, which you can find at www.startribune.com/investigators.

In addition to connecting you with our investigators, the site contains a sampling of some of the investigative stories and major projects we have reported in recent years. We've also provided a number of reporting tools for readers who want to research or conduct their own investigations. You'll find links to the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general's office, tips on how to obtain information from public agencies and departments, and databases to look up real estate transactions, public salaries, and licenses for doctors and teachers.

We know that we have sophisticated readers, interested in issues both within our state's boundaries and far beyond. For those readers, we have also provided links to some of the best investigative journalism that has been done in the country in the last few years, including stories from the Washington Post and Newsday.

As we move ahead, however, it is important that we have your help. The best investigations are a partnership between our reporters, who are trained in seeking out information, and members of the reading public who have information to share.

Since we launched our Whistleblower project, also located at this site, we have logged more than 600 tips from readers, many of which have developed into stories. James Shiffer, the Whistleblower editor, says he now fields about 20 tips a week in e-mails, phone calls, letters to Whistleblower and leads from other staffers.

We screen all of these tips and investigate the most promising. In some cases, it's fair to say that our readers' story tips have garnered more interest than almost anything we have found without your help. For example, the story Shiffer reported in both text and video on the Minneapolis man who was boarded up in his home before he could vacate it received more than 200,000 views online; that's in addition to the more than 300,000 copies of the story that circulated in print.

As is often the case, some of the hard work of bringing projects like this to you is done by people behind the scenes. Special thanks to Rhonda Prast, the editor who oversaw this project, and web designer Chandra Akkari for all of the effort they put into designing the site.

To share a tip with us, simply visit us at www.startribune.com/investigators, e-mail us at whistleblower@startribune.com or call us at 612-673-4271. We want to help.

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