Kerry McQuisten mug

Kerry McQuisten

Kerry McQuisten knows the clichés that private investigators are often saddled with.

But against the glamorous depictions, on screens both big and small, of secret meetings and covert surveillance, McQuisten uses a more prosaic analogy to describe an investigator’s work.

“I like putting the puzzle pieces together and coming up with the truth,” said McQuisten, a licensed private investigator who recently started her business, Shadow Work Investigations LLC, in Baker City.

“I like to have all the answers.”

McQuisten, a Baker High School graduate, said she has long been interested in the profession.

And she said it was a natural transition from her career as a journalist and newspaper owner.

McQuisten published the weekly Baker County Press from 2014 through January 2018.

Working as a private investigator, she said, is “very much like journalism.”

“The interviewing techniques are the same,” McQuisten said. “Digging around in public records. It’s a lot of computer work and talking to people. You have to be perceptive and intuitive.”

She said many licensed investigators formerly worked either as journalists or as police officers.

“It’s the same skill set,” McQuisten said.

Although her background is in journalism rather than law enforcement, she said that covering police agencies while publishing the Baker County Press gave her a perspective for police work that’s beneficial in her new endeavor.

Despite working now on behalf of individual clients rather than a group of readers, McQuisten said it’s equally important to pursue a case, as with a newspaper story, from a neutral perspective.

“You’re weighing facts, debunking things in some cases,” she said.

McQuisten said she started preparing to become an investigator, and to start her business, about a year ago.

Oregon requires private investigators to be licensed — five states, including Idaho, don’t require any license — and McQuisten said the process is rather involved.

She said she had to document at least 1,500 hours of relevant experience — her journalism work qualified — undergo a criminal background check, pay about $630 in fees, submit reference letters from people in law enforcement and, finally, attend a class and pass a test, with a score of at least 86%, at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem, the agency that licenses and monitors private investigators.

McQuisten, who said she is already working on cases locally and has received calls from potential clients in Western Oregon, said she’s glad she went through the process to become licensed.

“If you have a dream and you don’t take action it goes nowhere,” she said. “This is a neat thing to be a part of. I love it.”

McQuisten is a member of the Oregon Association of Licensed Investigators.

She said the flexible schedule of an investigator meshes much better with her existing business, Black Lyon Publishing, than running the Baker County Press did.

“I’m not scaling back at all with Black Lyon,” McQuisten said.

She is one of six licensed private investigators in Baker City, according to the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

More information about Shadow Work Investigations is available at

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