A couple of years ago I
mapped out eight common angles for identifying stories in data. It turns out that the same framework is useful for finding stories in company accounts, too — but not only that: the angles also map neatly onto three broad techniques.
In this post I’ll go through each of the three techniques — looking at cash flow statements; compiling data from multiple accounts; and tracing people and connections — and explain how they can be used to get stories, with examples of articles that have used those techniques successfully.
We start, naturally, with the money…
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Company directors’ pay regularly provides material for stories — and
this front page story by The Guardian’s Robert Booth was such a masterclass in the genre (as well as other open source intelligence techniques) that I decided to reverse-engineer it for a Twitter thread.
I’ve embedded the thread below, or
you can read it on Threadreader here. Using company accounts in journalism
You can find other posts about using company accounts at the following links:
can be a goldmine of story leads — from “following the money” and uncovering complex webs of relationships, to simply reporting concerns and individual payments.
I’ve put together a playlist of videos covering a number of different techniques you can use to find stories. Those are:
What stories can be found in company accounts How to find stories in the text section at the front of company accounts Finding stories in the cash flow statement Using accounts to find stories about relationships and potential conflicts of interest Tools and tips for journalists using company accounts Finding stories about tax, pay, debt and other leads
The entire playlist is embedded below.
You can also read my posts on
teaching journalists how to find stories in company accounts; how one journalist used these techniques to tell a story about a social media platform for sex workers; and tips from a story about a fashion charity.
find resources related to the video in this GitHub repo including examples of accounts and links to stories using these techniques.
The video was first made for students on the
MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and is shared here as part of a series of video posts.
follow me on Twitter you’ll know every so often I highlight a story which uses company accounts. This latest one has celebrity and fashion, and involves a charity that’s raising money through star-studded events — what more can you ask for?
It’s a great excuse to find out about a range of techniques for finding stories and background in company accounts.
Follow the thread from the tweet embedded below, or read it on Threadreader here.
Eariler this week I came across a fantastic example of using
company accounts in journalism: Guardian media editor Jim Waterson‘s article on how the family that founded the sex-worker social media platform OnlyFans “extracted tens of millions of pounds from its parent company in the last year”.
The article uses so many different techniques that I put together a Twitter thread reverse-engineering the story, paragraph by paragraph. The thread can be followed below, and has
also been pulled together into a single page by Threadreader here.
Last week I
shared some of the tips from a class for students on my MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and MA in Data Journalism on how to find stories in company accounts. It’s a challenging subject to teach — but for the last couple of years I’ve used an approach that seems to work especially well: a story treasure hunt.
Here’s how it works.
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This week I’m teaching students on my
MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and MA in Data Journalism how to find stories in company accounts — so I thought it would be a good time to share just some of the ways that you can use these public documents for story leads and ideas (you can read this post in Russian here).
Here, then, are just 9 ways to find stories in company accounts — and most of them don’t involve any numbers at all.
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