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.


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

2015 Midwest Watchdog Workship in Madison, WI

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 reportersLauren Fuhrmann and Kate Golden, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism; Ellen Gabler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Taming environmental and agricultural reportingRon Seely, Wisconsin State Journal; Pamela Dempsey, The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; Kate Golden, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Five Tips for Investigating Underrepresented CommunitiesKaren 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


2015 Washington, DC Watchdog Workshop

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


2015 Nashville Higher Education Watchdog Workshop

Doing watchdog journalism with limited time - slides | Nancy Amons, WSMV, Channel 4

Doing watchdog journalism with limited time - tipsheet | Nancy Amons, WSMV, Channel 4


2015 Baton Rouge Watchdog Workshop

Watchdogging local government | Gordon Russell, The New Orleans Advocate

FOI/Open records (this links to multiple pieces of FOI material from Torres) | Manuel Torres, Times-Picayune

Finding and cultivating sources | Manny Garcia, Naples Daily News

2014 Jacksonville Watchdog Workshop

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


2014 Buffalo Watchdog Workshop

The art of the interview | Tisha Thompson, NBC Washington

Watchdogging public finance | John Schoen,


2014 Portland Watchdog Workshop

The art of the interview | Nicole Vap, NBC Denver


2014 Washington, D.C. Watchdog Workshop in conjuction with AAJA's  National Conference

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


2014 San Antonio Watchdog Worshop

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


2014 Tucson Watchdog Workshop

The Art of Access | David Cuillier, University of Arizona

Beyond the Obvious: Investigating Drugs and Cartels | Dr. Celeste González de Bustamante, University of Arizona


2014 Wyoming Watchdog Workshop

Channeling Elmore Leonard: How to make a story hum | Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times

Chasing Paper | Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times


2014 Los Angeles Watchdog Workshop

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


2014 Iowa City Watchdog Workshop

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

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