On the Road : June 2009

Ultimate shop talk

By Alexandra Berzon

My track at my very first IRE conference inadvertently ended up something that could best be described as “How to talk to people.” I found myself drawn to the panels of legendary investigative journalists candidly describing how they get people to tell them things. My favorite part of reporting is the talking-to-people part, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how I do it.

The takeaway message from several panels on interview and source tactics was: Be relentless. Do anything short of lying to get information. “The trick is not going away,” said ...

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International networking in Baltimore

By Margo Smit

Though from a small country half a world away, I try to make IRE conferences a regular on my calendar. And after six conferences in the last seven years, I almost feel like a veteran here. "IRE is my family," said broadcast journalist Tisha Thompson at the IRE Awards luncheon. It feels a little like that for me too. Coming to these conferences has brought me so much — including a job. For two weeks, I have run the Dutch Flemish Association of Investigative Journalists (VVOJ) as their first paid director. Without IRE, there wouldn’t even be ...

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Finding nerd joy at IRE'09

By Dawn Fallik

IRE

Hell is having your panel at the same time as Barlett & Steele AND Eric Nalder.  Plus, we were hidden behind the kitchen (Mike Berens cooked a couple omelets before figuring out where we were.) But huzzah! A good 35-40 people showed up to hear four uber-nerds talk about 990 forms (New! Expanded!), disciplinary actions and how 31 nurses, doctors and techs all reached into the same Cheetos bag at a Seattle hospital before going to check on patients — without handwashing. Good thing it was before lunch….

Seriously though, there's a certain glow that I get ...

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Spreadsheet training sparks stories

Paul Sloth, a reporter with The Journal Times in Racine, Wis., proved that a little hands-on CAR training can go a long way. Less than a month after attending the optional CAR training at a Better Watchdog Workshop in Madison, he's already completed two spreadsheet-based stories. After only a few hours of training in Excel, Sloth had learned enough to find that a Racine school superintendent is "the second highest paid public school official in the state."

In addition, Sloth analyzed school enrollment numbers to find increased enrollment of Hispanic students in small school districts. He then followed up ...

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