Events and Training

Watchdog workshops

A crucial duty of a journalist is to serve the public interest by acting as a watchdog on government and business. This duty has become all the more important at a time when governments are restricting the flow of information. At such times, broadcast and print journalists must redouble their efforts to use freedom-of-information laws to obtain public documents and help the public appreciate the value of such laws.


About the workshops

The Watchdog Workshop series brings affordable training to cities around the U.S. Use the schedule below to find a session near you, or contact IRE if you're interested in bringing one to your area. IRE's staff teams up with veteran journalists to lead the training.

Journalists who attend IRE Watchdog Workshops get their investigative batteries recharged. Reporters, editors and producers return to their newsrooms with:

  • Hard-hitting story ideas.
  • Databases and documents to explore on their beat.
  • Useful websites and strategies for using Internet tools such as wikis, blogs, robots and RSS feeds.
  • Techniques for more effective sourcing and interviewing.
  • Advice on how to bulletproof stories for accuracy.
  • Tips on dealing with freedom of information laws and public records in their state.
  • Topic-specific training that changes depending on the news of the day and the needs of local news organizations.

Top-notch investigative journalists from around the country team with IRE trainers to provide a workshop filled with inspiration as well as tangible tips and resources. Previous speakers have included reporters and editors from The New York Times, WTTG-Washington, The Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostThe Los Angeles Times and dozens of other news organizations.

Most workshops also feature hands-on spreadsheet training.

Jamie DeLoma, a news editor for in New York, described a Watchdog Workshop in Connecticut as well worth his time: “I was shocked at how quickly the day went by. It was really packed full of a very diverse and eclectic group of topics, ideas and insights.”


Find or schedule a workshop

Check the training calendar for a watchdog workshop near you, or contact senior training director Jaimi Dowdell to discuss bringing one to your city.


Learn online

Thanks to a generous grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, IRE is now gathering audio, video and other digital training materials from its latest season of watchdog workshops. We’ve put together step-by-step instructions for accessing audio.

Tipsheets and presentations

2014 San Antonio Watchdog Worshop

FOI Laws for Texas Journalists | Paul C. Watler, Jackson Walker L.L.P.


2014 New York Watchdog Workshop

Cyber security | Paula Lavigne, ESPN; Mike Tigas, ProPublica; Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, The Wall Street Journal

Tips for grant writing | Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville, Independent Journalists

Tracing assets, tracking lifestyles | Sheila Coronel, Columbia University

The fast lane: Some rules for the road | Jennifer Forsyth, The Wall Street Journal

Finding data for investigative reporters | Barbara Gray, CUNY Journalism School

Web tools for reporting | Barbara Gray, CUNY Journalism School


2013 Toronto Watchdog Workshop

Spycraft: Keeping your sources safe | Steve Doig, ASU

Intro To Spatial Data Analysis | David McKie, CBC

Scraping with Chrome Scraper | Sarah Cohen, The New York Times

Big Opportunities in Canadian Business News | David Cay Johnston, CJR, Tax Analysts and National Memo


2013 Hawaii Watchdog Workshop

Finding the story | Michael Berens, The Seattle Times

Documents and tools for investigating nonprofits | Kendall Taggart, The Center for Investigative Reporting

The Art of the Interview | Michael Berens, The Seattle Times


2013 Oklahoma City Watchdog Workshop

Why use data and documents? | Chris Davis, Tampa Bay Times

Quick Hit Investigative Story ideas | Nanci Wilson, Freelance

Generating story ideas | Chris Davis, Tampa Bay Times


2013 Johnson City, TN Watchdog Workshop

Digging deeper with data and documents | Ziva Branstetter, Tulsa World and Phil Willilams, News Channel 5 

101 Essential Documents For Watchdog Reporters | Phil Williams, News Channel 5

The Web for investigations | Doug Haddix, Ohio State University/Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism

Social media for investigations | Doug Haddix, Ohio State University/Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism

Bulletproofing your work | Ziva Branstetter, Tulsa World