On the Road : May 2009

Training, IRS 990s pay off in Santa Fe

Building on IRE custom training, reporter Craig Smith of the Santa Fe New Mexican produced a two-part look at the financial challenges of arts organizations. The first installment gave an overview of the financial picture, while the second story examined salaries and funding for arts organizations. The second piece included a full listing of more than 100 top salaries at organizations such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Santa Fe Opera.

Smith relied heavily on IRS 990 tax returns, available for free at Guidestar.org.

“The February IRE training was useful to me in preparing this in that ...

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"CAR Day" has something for everyone

We've received lots of questions about whether the optional Computer-Assisted Reporting day at the Baltimore conference June 11-14 is suitable for people new to CAR. The answer is "Yes." The day will serve as a good introduction to the tools and tricks of analyzing electronic information. In addition, hands-on classes Friday through Saturday will give you actual experience using spreadsheets and databases. Here are some Thursday panels I think would be suitable for those new to CAR as well as seasoned veterans:
Thursday (6/11/09) Panel(s)
9:00 - 10:00 a.m. CAR's greatest hits: 2008-2009 ...
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Focus watchdog eyes on business

Tough economic times and financial fraud go hand in hand, from Charles Ponzi and his 1919 pyramid scheme in Boston to Bernie Madoff and massive investor deception.

Regardless of your beat, there never has been a better time to do business-related investigations, according to reporter Ron Campbell of The Orange County Register.

While everyone’s making money during boom times, people don’t sweat the financial details, he told 60 journalists who gathered in Salt Lake City for an IRE Better Watchdog Workshop. But during hard times, the fraud often emerges ...

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Use maps to find underlying data

A tsunami map file came in handy recently during custom training at the Student Media Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The mapping file shows the value of looking into local geographic data, even if you don’t know how to use mapping software.

More and more local, regional and state governments are posting mapping files on their Web sites – including Santa Barbara county government. Every smart map has an underlying data table. So, even if you don’t use mapping software, exploring a government or university mapping site can lead you to data sets that you ...

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Uncover pension fraud in your community

Click here to listen to audio. Newsday reporters Eden Laikin and Sandra Peddie used databases and public records to track pension fraud in public schools. At a recent Better Watchdog Workshop in Los Angeles, the reporters discussed how similar investigations can be done in any community. The workshop was held at the Annenberg School for Communication in conjunction with the presentation of the Selden Ring Award. Laikin and Peddie's investigation was this year's award winner. — Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director