Governmental Research


Writers Corner

Rusty Straight | Senior Reporter

I received a rather unusual request this week from Barbara in Palm Springs. “I am writing about a government agency. How do I research that? I’ve been running into blank walls.”

Barbara, this one is fairly easy. First, start with the freedom of information site and list what you are seeking. Freedom of Information elicits long answers covering every angle of your request. Also, if your story mentions other names, you may be able to contact those persons directly. Contrary to public opinion, government agencies and personalities love publicity so long as it doesn’t place them in a bad light. There are always ways to handle those sources. Who else knows something that relates to your story that you might happen on accidentally? I’ve often run into things I didn’t know about a person while researching.

Your public library is an excellent source of information. Library managers often have information that is not listed in the usual places. As I’ve said over and over again, research is an ongoing effort. I hope this gives Barbara the insight she seeks.

To new writers especially, if you really want to be successful as a writer who makes a living at your craft, I would recommend that you read about other writers. I highly recommend Stephen King’s book on writing. See what Dean Koontz says about his early days as a writer and how he managed to reach the top of his game. Remember, these famous writers were once novices. John Grisham applied his experience as an attorney into a once-a-year bestseller. He has penned dozens of books involving the law and always looks out for the underdog.

I welcome your questions or suggestions. You can reach me at the email below. Just sayin’

[email protected]

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