I was in my doctor’s office when I started reading Reuters’ two-part report about Peregrine Financial Group’s founder Russell Wasendorf Sr.
I couldn’t help but share some details with others in the waiting room. A U-shaped pool being built at his house stood out. The story says: “Wasendorf sent workers on a tour of Italy to see how a special coating on the pool should look when applied.” (You can see part two here.)
The list of reporters also caught my eye. P.J. Huffstutter, Ann Saphir, Tom Polansek and David Sheppard share the byline. Sarah Lynch, Nick Carey, Ryan Schlader, Eric G. Kelsey and Barbara Liston contributed to the story. And two editors, Jonathan Leff and Michael Williams, pulled it all together.
I spoke with P.J., the lead writer to get some tips on pulling a profile like this one together.
“To be able to find threads of guy’s life over 60 plus years, you have to have a lot of reporters who are really smart all going after it at the same time, and being able to work collaboratively,” she says.
The team used Google Docs (now Google Drive) to compile documents and create timelines. They also relied on emails as they traveled to keep track of who was handling what, P.J. says.
Having a variety reporters with different styles helped get tight-knit groups like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to open up, she says.
The Chicago bureau chief assigned reporters to staff court hearings in Cedar Rapids. That’s how the team found Wasendorf’s pastor, who offers a good inside look at what the executive was thinking.
“It really proves that when you’re covering a story that is clearly as complicated as this one, it does help to have somebody in courtroom,” P.J. says. “It can be an incredible exercise in patience.”
P.J. says because of the different roles each reporter played, the story really was a group effort. The hardest part was figuring out which details to keep in.