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 Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and dozens of other news organizations.
Most workshops also feature hands-on spreadsheet training.
Jamie DeLoma, a news editor for WNBC.com 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
Listen to workshop audio
Thanks to a generous grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, IRE is now gathering audio and other digital training materials from its latest season of watchdog workshops. We’ve put together step-by-step instructions for accessing audio.
Audio is available for the following workshops:
Tipsheets and presentations
The Art of the Interview | Joce Sterman, WJLA
10 Techniques for Getting People To Talk | Stephanie Saul, The New York Times
Consumer reporting, testing | Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY
The Art of the Interview and Source Development | Andy Hall, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
Free tools and techniques to help us be better watchdog reporters | Lauren Fuhrmann and Kate Golden, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism; Ellen Gabler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Taming environmental and agricultural reporting | Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal; Pamela Dempsey, The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; Kate Golden, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
Five Tips for Investigating Underrepresented Communities | Karen Lincoln Michel, Madison Magazine
Quick-hit investigations | Dee J. Hall, Wisconsin State Journal
Web for Watchdog | Megan Luther, IRE and NICAR
Complaint investigations: Turning complaints into compelling stories | Joce Sterman, WJLA
The Art of the Interview | Tisha Thompson, NBC4-Washington
Open Records: Using the law to get what you want | Talia Buford, The Center for Public Integrity; Ron Nixon, The New York Times
Watchdogging local government | Gordon Russell, The New Orleans Advocate
FOI/Open records (this links to multiple pieces of FOI material from Torres) | Manuel Torres, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune
Finding and cultivating sources | Manny Garcia, Naples Daily News
Watchdogging on the Beat: Tips from the AJC Newsroom | Shawn McIntosh, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Finding and cultivating sources | Topher Sanders, The Florida Times-Union
The art of the interview | Tisha Thompson, NBC Washington
Watchdogging public finance | John Schoen, CNBC.com
The art of the interview | Nicole Vap, NBC Denver
Public Records and You | Brad Heath, USA Today and Alia L. Smith, Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, LLP
Bulletproofing Your Story | Brad Heath, USA Today
Investigations You Can Start Next Week | Ron Lin, Los Angeles Times
Covering Minority Communities | Anh Do, Los Angeles Times and Richard Lui, MSNBC
Websites for Environmental Reporting | Lisa Song, InsideClimate News
FOI Laws for Texas Journalists | Paul C. Watler, Jackson Walker L.L.P.
Web for Watchdogs | Doug Haddix, Ohio State University/Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism
Who Cares About State Elections? | Dave Levinthal and Ben Wieder, The Center for Public Integrity
Webinar: The Buying of the Election 2014 | Dave Levinthal and Ben Wieder, The Center for Public Integrity
The Art of Access | David Cuillier, University of Arizona
Beyond the Obvious: Investigating Drugs and Cartels | Dr. Celeste González de Bustamante, University of Arizona
Channeling Elmore Leonard: How to make a story hum | Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times
Chasing Paper | Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times
Digging Deeper with Data and Documents | Ron Campbell, Independent Journalist
Requesting records and data under open records law | Ellen Gabler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Hidden Key to Hot Button Issues: Census Data | Ron Campbell, Independent Journalist
Tips for Investigating Caregivers | Meg Kissinger, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Transparency in action: Pinpointing influence of money in state politics | Denise Roth Barber, National Institute on Money in State Politics
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
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
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
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
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