"You are standing in a line at the supermarket to buy a box of Cheerios. You notice that the two customers in front of you are making the same purchase. The cashier rings up the first box at $5.41, just as advertised in the newspaper. But when the second box is scanned, the price registers $6.76. Strange, you think. Even more strange, the customer doesn't seem to notice the difference. Then it's your turn. The cashier scans the box and the price flashes $29.92. Why would anyone pay more than five times as much as another person for an identical box of cereal? They wouldn't. But when it comes to health care, you don't have any choice. And that's precisely the kind of spread that hospitals use in selling their services. Except that you don't know it -- it's their secret."
Barlett-Steele then mention numerous hospitals employing such nefarious practices to drive home their point. As for their sourcing, both humans and documents? They share their sourcing in detail, both within the text and in the copious endnotes. Expert journalism, indeed.
As for less-expert journalists, as well as general readers, they are well advised to study anything -- everything, if practical -- published by Barlett and Steele. Their prescient book Forevermore: Nuclear Waste in America, holds up nicely decades after its publication. And one of their older classic works is newly available in bookstores, thanks in large part to Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio is starring in this fall's movie The Aviator, based on the life of eccentric billionaire inventor-playboy-pilot-paranoid schizophrenic Howard Hughes.
Of all journalists who have chronicled Hughes' life and death, nobody did it better than Barlett-Steele in their 1979 biography Empire: The Life, Legend and Madness of Howard Hughes. W.W. Norton has re-issued the biography with a new title, Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness. The source notes in the book are an investigative reporting primer. The writing is perhaps the best ever done by Barlett-Steele. I plan to re-read it, for the fifth time.
Steve Weinberg served as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) from 1983-1990. (Barlett and Steele are also active in the organization.) Weinberg's investigative journalism has appeared in several dozen newspapers and magazines. He is the author of six nonfiction books.