Building on IRE custom training, reporter Craig Smith of the Santa Fe New Mexican produced a two-part look at the financial challenges of arts organizations. The first installment gave an overview of the financial picture, while the second story examined salaries and funding for arts organizations. The second piece included a full listing of more than 100 top salaries at organizations such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Santa Fe Opera.

Smith relied heavily on IRS 990 tax returns, available for free at Guidestar.org.

“The February IRE training was useful to me in preparing this in that it re-honed my Excel skills to some extent. I was glad to have been reminded of how to use different sheets in a workbook,” he said. “What was more important was the enthusiasm I took away from the sessions, on how one reporter can make a difference.”
Particularly in smaller newsrooms, he said, individual reporters and their editors can make a big difference in pushing for investigative stories without waiting for direction from top editors.

Reporters interested in comparing nonprofit organizations in different states can purchase IRS 990 data going back to 1974 from the IRE Database Library, which also has links to tipsheets and other news stories that relied on the tax returns. A subscription service also is available, with data updated monthly.

—  Doug Haddix, IRE training director