On the Road : 2010

Sharpen rural coverage

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director

Plenty of watchdog stories are waiting to be told in small towns and rural areas across America, says Daniel Gilbert of The Wall Street Journal. “There aren’t enough of us (reporters) in rural areas, so there are lots of opportunities to plow new ground,” he told participants at an IRE Better Watchdog Workshop earlier this month in Charleston, W. Va. The workshop was hosted by The Charleston Gazette. Geographic challenges, such as long distances between county courthouses, can be an obstacle but shouldn’t deter journalists from doing a deep dig on an ...

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Don't be a stenographer and other tips from a Pulitzer Prize winner

By Mark Horvit, IRE Executive Director

Nigel Jaquiss has  a strong but simple message for those who cover local government: "Do not be a stenographer." Jaquiss, a Pultizer Prize and IRE Award winning reporter for the Willamette Week in Portland, offered a series of recommendations to help those who cover local government do more than simply record the business of government. He spoke to more than 80 journalists and journalism students gathered for a recent Watchdog Workshop in Eugene, Ore. Jaquiss noted that government involves allocating three things: money, power and permission. Key things to track include:

  • Who are the ...
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Dig into local leaders

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director

Reporters should make one to three calls a day to sources whom they don’t need for a deadline story. That’s the most effective way to develop sources who’ll come through for you later with ideas and help, according to Ryan Gabrielson of California Watch. Gabrielson spoke during an IRE Better Watchdog Workshop last weekend at San Francisco State University. He covers public safety issues at California Watch, a project of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. While working at the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., he and reporting partner Paul ...

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IRE census training in Vegas plus webinars

Investigative Reporters and Editors will present a half-day census workshop Oct. 4 during the SPJ national convention in Las Vegas. Full details are online at http://www.spj.org/c-halfday.asp. USA TODAY database editor Paul Overberg and IRE training director Doug Haddix will lead the in-depth sessions. You’ll leave with story ideas, a better understanding of how to use the data, and details about the ongoing American Community Survey for rich demographic information down to the neighborhood level. In addition, IRE has scheduled two full-day census workshops this fall: Read more ...

Quick fix to tame PDFs

By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director

A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching at a computer-assisted reporting boot camp in San Diego. The class had been through spreadsheets and databases, and I was finally demonstrating how to deal with pdf's. After showing some online options, I walked the class through my old stand-by: XPDF.

If you've used it before, you know that once you get the hang of it, it's quite simple. But learning it for the first time can be a bit daunting, as it uses the command line. That's right, I said: The ...

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Be active with records requests

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director

Getting public records often takes far more effort than filing a written request and simply waiting for the juicy documents to arrive. “It’s reporting, not requesting,” says Shawn McIntosh, public editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The best reporters realize that a written public-records request usually is just one step to get the information they need, she told participants in an IRE Better Watchdog Workshop hosted by CNN in Atlanta. In most cases, reporters need to keep working sources, finding ways around obstacles and navigating through bureaucracies. She offered a variety of practical tips ...

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Sharpen your interviewing skills

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director

Studies have shown that the actual words account for only about 7 percent of communication between two people, according to Amy Herdy of the University of Colorado. Body language makes up 55 percent of communication, with tone accounting for the other 38 percent, she told journalists during a recent IRE Better Watchdog Workshop in Denver. For instance, she said, reporters and producers should not approach a reluctant source with a notebook or microphone in hand. Be aware that the tools of the trade can intimidate sources. Persuade them to be interviewed first, and only ...

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Fall webinar lineup

By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director

Tap in to practical training from your home or office with IRE's online sessions. This fall we're rolling out a series of webinars led by experienced journalists and IRE trainers. Topics include Broadcast investigations, Twitter for journalists, Doing great work with limited resources and Corral and analyze text with DocumentCloud. A brief description of each session is listed below.

For more information, or to register go here. Aug. 26, 2010 Broadcast investigations Join Tisha Thompson of WTTG-Washington, D.C. to find out how documents and computer-assisted reporting can juice up your stories ...

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Make chronologies easier with TimeFlow

By Jaimi Dowdell, IRE training director

If you've ever been involved in an investigative story or in-depth project, you understand how important chronology can be. I’ve often sketched timelines on notebooks, napkins or white boards. For trickier tasks or more data, I've turned to Excel, but I've never been completely satisfied with how it works.

TimeFlow, released last week, just might change all that. Funded by Duke University, the minds behind this project include IRE Board member Sarah Cohen, Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg. It’s free and open source; you can find it here. To ...

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Manage your time for investigative stories

By Doug Haddix, IRE training director

Time management can be a reporter’s biggest challenge when it comes to watchdog stories. During a recent Better Watchdog Workshop in Denver, two seasoned investigative journalists shared tips and tricks they’ve learned to make time for the big story. Advice and tips came from Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Laura Frank of the I-News Network based in Denver. Rutledge drew examples from her “Cashing in on Kids” series about fraud in tax-subsidized day care – winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. Frank recalled lessons learned from her ...

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