Document Dissection: DOJ Ferguson Report

By Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

The controversy surrounding the Michael Brown shooting by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson highlights the speed with which an issue of local law enforcement can escalate into one of domestic national security.

As part of our mission to help journalists better cover national security issues, we decided to take the full text of the Justice Department’s Ferguson report, upload it to DocumentCloud and annotate it in order to provide journalists with a tool for carrying out more comprehensive investigations of Ferguson.

While the DOJ report included some footnotes, we attempted to go a step further, tracking down the digital locations of the parts of Ferguson’s municipal code that are namedropped (but not necessarily explained) in the report, contact information and background on individuals identified in it, and suggestions for angles and reporting methodologies.

If you are a journalist or researcher who uses DocumentCloud and would like to get in on the annotating, send an email to NSJI Digital Fellow Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory at with your name, news organization (if applicable) and the email address associated with your Document Cloud account so that we can send you an invite to collaborate with us in real time on the evolution of this document.

Document Dissection is a new series from the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative’s National Security Zone website aimed at using’s annotation capabilities to encourage muckraker mind-melds around documents of relevance to U.S. national security.  It seeks to add crucial context, reporting tips and potential source contact information to high-stakes primary source documents to allow for a more comprehensive use of qualitative data in investigative national security reporting.  A collaborative endeavor at its core, Document Dissection will always be based on conversation between the NSJI, journalists and researchers, through open comments on DD posts and through group annotation with fellow DocumentCloud users.