Three incumbents and three newcomers were elected to two-year terms for the IRE Board of Directors in election results announced Saturday. IRE members also elected two members of the Contest Committee, which judges the IRE Awards.
Here are vote totals for the six candidates elected to the Board of Directors:
Here are results for the remaining candidates:
For a one-year term on the IRE Contest Committee, Shannon Isbell and Angeliki Kastanis secured seats. Here are voting results:
Online voting began the week of May 17 and ended Saturday. The six journalists elected Saturday to the IRE Board of Directors joined seven incumbents, whose terms expire next year. The newly constituted board will meet on Tuesday to elect officers to serve for one year on the Executive Committee. Members can attend Tuesday’s meeting by registering for the virtual event here.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has won the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2021 Golden Padlock Award honoring the most secretive public agency or official in the U.S.
Drawn from nominations from journalists across the country, Landry won for suing newspaper reporter Andrea Gallo over a public records request. Gallo, an investigative reporter for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, filed a request in December for copies of sexual harassment complaints made against the head of the attorney general’s criminal division. The agency said it would not release the complaint because it contained private information. Landry then took the extraordinary step of suing Gallo, asking the judge to seal the record and prohibit Gallo from disclosing any information pertaining to the complaint. In response, Gallo’s attorney called it “simply unfathomable” that Landry would sue before even attempting to redact portions of the sexual harassment complaint, as the newspaper had suggested. A judge rejected Landry’s argument in March and ordered the release of the record.
“In a fiercely competitive field of finalists this year, Landry impressed the judges with a bold strategy designed to ensure important truths remain hidden from the public,” said Golden Padlock committee chair Robert Cribb. “Suing reporters for posing questions is a high watermark for public officials committed to secret-keeping and a worthy winning strategy for this honor.”
IRE named three finalists for the award for their extraordinary efforts to undermine the public’s right to know.
The finalists for the 2021 Golden Padlock Award were:
IRE is returning to in-person events with a symposium in Baltimore in October focusing on diversity, belonging, equity and inclusion (DBEI) issues for newsrooms.
The hybrid event will be IRE’s first in-person training event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. It also will be IRE’s first-ever event focused solely on diversity and equity issues.
The DBEI symposium will be Oct. 21-23, 2021, with limited in-person attendance. Members also will have the option to join virtually from anywhere in the world.
“We are really looking forward to visiting in person again, while at the same time maintaining the advantages of a virtual platform for those who can’t be with us face to face,” said IRE Executive Director Diana Fuentes.
The symposium will focus on helping journalists with newsroom diversity issues and with investigating inequality in their communities, from education and labor to housing and criminal justice.
IRE is seeking input on specific topics members would like to learn about or speakers they’d like to see at the symposium. Please fill out this form with any ideas by Monday, July 26.
“Our members have said they want to focus on better reflecting the communities they serve, and we want to help them reach that goal,” Fuentes said. “Let us know what specific subjects you’d like us to address.”
Other details, including registration cost, hotel information, will be announced in the coming weeks. Sign up for our DBEI Symposium email updates list here. In-person attendance will be limited due to space but, of course, there are no limits on virtual attendance!
IRE's Don Bolles Medal for 2021 has been awarded to four investigative journalists who have courageously worked to expose human rights abuses in China, as well as that country's handling of the coronavirus crisis, and faced retaliation from the government of China for their reporting.
This year's recipients are Chao Deng, Josh Chin and Philip Wen of The Wall Street Journal and Chris Buckley of The New York Times.
The Don Bolles Medal recognizes investigative journalists who have exhibited extraordinary courage in standing up against intimidation or efforts to suppress the truth about matters of public importance.
"China makes it incredibly difficult for journalists to uncover truths that the government would rather keep hidden from the rest of the world," said IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson. "These journalists have all shown extraordinary courage in digging up those important stories, and as a result, they faced the wrath of the Chinese government."
Deng, Chin and Wen were expelled from China in February 2020 in the first mass expulsion of journalists in the post-Mao era. While the government of China claimed that it was retaliating for the headline of an opinion column (knowing that the Journal's news and editorial operations are completely separate), the expulsions enabled Chinese officials to suppress critical reporting about the government's failures.
Deng was reporting from Wuhan about the ongoing coronavirus crisis when the Foreign Ministry ordered her to cease all journalistic activity and to prepare for expulsion from the country. Her reporting had revealed questions about the accuracy of the government's COVID tests and about how the outbreak had overwhelmed the city's health care system. Previously, Deng exposed how Western companies had become "entangled in China's campaign to forcibly assimilate its Muslim population."
Wen's reporting raised questions about the potential involvement of Chinese President Xi Jinping's cousin in organized crime, money laundering and influence-peddling schemes. He also revealed how China had shifted its strategy for dealing with ethnic Muslims from forced re-education centers to more subtle forms of control.
Chin had reported on how China, in an effort to snuff out a Muslim separatist group, had turned the autonomous region of Xinjiang "into a laboratory for high-tech social controls." He revealed how the government, after rounding up Muslim Uighur residents, had demolished neighborhoods in an attempt to purge their culture. Chin also reported on how employees of Huawei Technologies had helped African governments to spy on their political opponents.
"Chao, Phil and Josh are the kind of foreign correspondents that are increasingly unwelcome in China -- reporters who are native-level fluent in Mandarin, who have spent years in the country and who dare to report on sensitive subjects that otherwise will not be told to the outside world," said the Journal's China bureau chief, Jonathan Cheng.
In July 2020, in a signal of the Chinese government's determination to extend its repressive reach, New York Times reporter Chris Buckley was forced to leave Hong Kong after authorities refused to renew his visa.
Two months earlier, Buckley had been reporting from Wuhan when his press card expired, and he was forced to pack his bags and leave mainland China. In the early days of the outbreak, Buckley had described conditions "with the sick being herded into makeshift quarantine camps, with minimal medical care, a growing sense of abandonment and fear."
His reporting had previously revealed how China was detaining Muslims in vast numbers, "where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write 'self-criticism' essays." He was part of the duo that published the leaked Xinjiang Papers, more than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents that exposed details of the Chinese government's mass detention of Muslims.
Former IRE Board member Phil Williams, who has spearheaded the nomination process for the Don Bolles Medal, said the four journalists exemplify the increasing difficulty that investigative journalists face throughout China.
"In honoring these four courageous journalists, we also recognize the work of countless other journalists who struggle every day to shine light into the dark corners of China," Williams said. "As China plays an increasingly important role on the world stage, the Don Bolles Medal should be seen as a call for more transparency and for the freedom to report throughout the country."
The Don Bolles Medal was created in 2017 in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Arizona Project, an effort led by IRE to finish the work of Don Bolles. The Arizona Republic investigative reporter was killed in 1976 by a car bomb in retaliation for his reporting.
Bolles’ death came a few days before the first national IRE conference in Indianapolis, where the veteran reporter had been scheduled to speak on a panel. At the time, Bolles had been investigating allegations of land fraud involving prominent politicians and individuals with ties to organized crime.
After his murder, nearly 40 journalists from across the country descended on Arizona to complete his investigation. News organizations across the country published their findings.
Their message: Efforts to suppress the truth will be met by even greater efforts from the rest of the journalism community to tell it.
Investigative Reporters and Editors has named a competitive field of finalists for its 2021 Golden Padlock Award honoring the most secretive public agency or official in the U.S.
Drawn from nominations from journalists across the country, four finalists were chosen for their extraordinary commitment to secrecy, ranging from suing a reporter over a request for public information, denying public access to a report detailing institutional failures that allowed ongoing abuse of children, filing subpoenas to access reporters’ research and deleting personal communications sought through official journalistic requests in the public interest.
“It’s an inspiration to highlight the work of public officials that embody the highest principles of bureaucratic intransigence, self-interest and disregard for the public’s right to know,” said Robert Cribb, chair of IRE’s Golden Padlock Committee. “These are civil servants of deep conviction whose personal pledge to uphold obfuscation make them worthy of public acknowledgement.”
The winner will be announced during the awards ceremony at the IRE21 virtual conference on Wednesday, June 16. If you are registered for the conference, you can add it to your agenda here.
The finalists for the 2021 Golden Padlock Award are:
Sign up to help others or to get mentorship through the IRE21 mentorship program.
The 2021 IRE virtual conference will feature IRE’s partnership with JournalismMentors.com, where IRE members can sign up to mentor other professional journalists at various stages in their careers as well as student journalists. Any journalist seeking mentorship can visit the site to find a mentor who suits their needs and sign up for an appointment to meet the mentor virtually.
IRE members who have volunteered as mentors are on the IRE Investigative page of JournalismMentors.com. The website also features mentors in several other areas, such as audience engagement, audio, data and marketing. Mentees are welcome to sign up for mentorship in any area, but only verified IRE members are on the IRE page and only IRE members will participate in the IRE21 mentorship program.
IRE mentors and their mentees will have a special session at the virtual IRE21 conference. The session is set for 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Tuesday, June 15. There will be tips on best practices for mentors and for mentees and how to get the most out of the mentor-mentee relationship as well as information on how to use the website.
Here’s how to participate.
Sign up using this form by 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on Monday, June 7. You must be an IRE member to be listed on the IRE Investigative page of JournalismMentors.com. The site uses the Calendly app, allowing you to choose your availability and allowing mentees to sign up for the specific time slots you list. Mentors agree to abide by the IRE Code of Conduct.
After you fill out the form, IRE will verify your membership and your profile will be posted to the IRE page on JournalismMentors.com. You must sign up by June 7 to provide mentorship during the conference; however, you can sign up any time throughout the year if you aren’t able to be a mentor at the conference.
There is no minimum time requirement to be a mentor, although IRE encourages mentors to increase their availability during conference week, June 14-18, to accommodate increased demand.
When you register for IRE21, sign up for the June 15 mentorship session. Mentors also will receive a coupon code for a discounted conference rate.
Visit the IRE Investigative page of JournalismMentors.com, which lists mentors who are IRE members, along with their specialties. Look for a mentor who matches your needs and availability and sign up through the site for a virtual appointment with that mentor.
If you can’t find a mentor with availability during conference week, you can try again in the following days and weeks. More and more mentors will be signing up as the June 7 deadline approaches.
Attendance at the conference is encouraged, though not required to participate in the mentorship program. When you register for IRE 21, sign up for the June 15 mentorship session. The early bird rate ends Monday, May 24.
If you have any questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Nixon, global investigations editor for The Associated Press and a longtime IRE member, will be the keynote speaker at the IRE21 virtual conference in June.
The conference will include several other featured speakers who will talk about their experiences covering the pandemic, social justice protests, Asian-American hate, international corruption and more.
As the keynote speaker, Nixon embodies the spirit of IRE through his commitment to mentorship, training and volunteering with the organization.
“The board is excited to have chosen Ron as the keynote for this year’s annual conference,” IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson said. “Whether it’s mentoring younger IRE members or pitching in on a panel, Ron has contributed so much to this organization over the years. And his commitment to diversity is unwavering. We look forward to his inspiring message.”
Nixon joined the AP in early 2019 as international investigations editor, managing a team of investigative reporters in the U.S. and abroad. He was promoted to global investigations editor in March 2020.
Nixon has a passion for training and mentoring other journalists. He was training director at IRE from 2000 to 2003 and also is co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society, which trains journalists of color in investigative techniques.
He started his journalism career at South Carolina Black Media, a statewide weekly Black newspaper, and also has worked as data editor at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and as environment and investigative reporter at The Roanoke Times in Virginia.
Prior to joining the AP, Nixon was homeland security correspondent for the New York Times. He has reported from Mexico, Belgium, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places. He is author of the book “Selling Apartheid: South Africa’s Global Propaganda War.”
He has won numerous accolades during his career, including most recently the News Leader of the Year Award, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, Virginia Press Association Public Service Award and the National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award.
Registration is open for IRE’s virtual 2021 national conference, which will feature more than 120 live panels, demos, and networking sessions; data skill labs and fun ways to connect with your fellow journalists.
Register by May 24 to secure the early-bird rate of $150 for professionals. After that date, registration rises to $200. Students may register at any time for $50. IRE membership is required through June to attend.
The conference is June 14-18 and will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Eastern U.S. time to allow for participation across the United States and around the world. Just as we’ve done at in-person conferences in the past, the IRE conference will feature multiple tracks, with several options during each time slot.
Training sessions will be recorded and available for attendees on demand for up to one year on the conference platform, along with session tipsheets and materials. The conference will also include fun social events, such as happy hours, networking and a celebration of the 2020 IRE Award winners.
Nearly 3,000 journalists, educators and students attended the first-ever virtual IRE Conference in September 2020. Members joined from more than 30 countries.
Below is more information about expected sessions, fellowships and other frequently asked questions. More details will be announced in the coming weeks, including the keynote speaker, featured speakers and full schedule.
In addition to training on investigative skills such as sourcing, interviewing and gathering public records, IRE21 will offer training sessions on timely topics such as covering COVID-19, investigating law enforcement and inclusion and equity in newsrooms and news coverage.
In addition to panels, the schedule also will include several special types of sessions:
View a list of expected sessions here. A full schedule with more sessions, descriptions and speakers will be released in the coming weeks.
Access all sessions and materials for one year
Attendees will gain full access to the conference site for one year so that they can take full advantage of the high-caliber training. Session videos, tipsheets, slide decks and other materials may be accessed on demand during that period.
We will offer about 200 fellowships, a record number for an IRE conference. Fellowships cover the cost of registration and a one-year IRE membership. Applications are due April 19. View information and apply here.
If you’d like to volunteer to help with the conference, please fill out this form. We have limited opportunities available to speak on panels, lead networking sessions, or host a fun event. Note that we cannot accommodate everyone who volunteers, and the window for session pitches has closed.
How can I keep up with new developments connected to #IRE21?
Please sign up here to receive email updates about #IRE21. It’s the best way to stay up-to-date on the latest virtual conference news.
For other information, please see our initial announcement and FAQs about the virtual IRE21 conference.
IRE is partnering with the Media Mentors program at JournalismMentors.com to provide mentorship and guidance to journalists looking to build skills in data and watchdog reporting.
Media Mentors is a mentoring program from journalism-internships.com, a website dedicated to fostering the next generation of media leaders. Mentors listed on the website have volunteered to offer half-hour, one-on-one sessions for advice, guidance or general questions about navigating the media industry. The website is run by Adriana Lacy, who works at Axios, and Caitlin Ostroff, who works at The Wall Street Journal.
Mentors on the Investigative page of the JournalismMentors.com website will be IRE members who have volunteered to help others with skills such as data journalism, requesting public records, approaching an accountability interview and other watchdog reporting skills. Those seeking mentorship are not required to be IRE members, and mentorship sessions are free to all.
“The ease of navigating the journalism industry and getting into investigative reporting shouldn’t be determined by where someone lives or where that person studied,” said Caitlin Ostroff, a co-founder of Media Mentors. “Adriana and I benefited immensely from the advice of veteran journalists as we started our careers and are thrilled to work with IRE to reach more mentees and mentors.”
IRE encourages members who have previously mentored others to volunteer through JournalismMentors.com.
Previously, mentorship was available only at IRE’s two annual conferences. This program makes mentorship more widely available throughout the year and to those who cannot travel to conferences.
"We’re thrilled to offer a more robust investigative mentoring program for IRE members and the broader journalism community," said Kat Stafford, an IRE board member and Membership Services Committee chair. "Mentorship is at the heart of IRE's mission, and we’re grateful this new partnership will help us build the next generation of diverse investigative journalists and representative newsrooms.”
Through the website, mentors set up office hours when they are available, and mentees can choose a time to set up a chat through an automated system. In addition to the IRE partnership, Media Mentors also offers mentorship in other topics such as editing, marketing, design/photo and audience engagement. See the frequently asked questions page on JournalismMentors.com for more information.
The IRE Board is thrilled to announce that Diana R. Fuentes will serve as the next executive director of the 6,000-member organization. She is the first person of color to serve in that role.
Fuentes, a Texas native, has served as the Deputy Metro Editor of the San Antonio Express-News since 2015. She has extensive senior management and masthead-level experience running newsrooms throughout Texas, and has served on numerous boards, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors (now the News Leaders Association). She is past president, treasurer and secretary of the Texas APME and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. She is a lifetime member, and former secretary and financial officer of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
“Diana’s management skills—and her management style—combined with her three decades as a journalist and her deep appreciation and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, make her a good fit for IRE,” said IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson. “I have no doubt that she will do an amazing job.”
Fuentes brings a solid vision to IRE, which includes initiatives to support investigative journalists at smaller newspapers, broadcast outlets and online news sites. She also hopes to expand the organization’s program that provides investigative training at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions; and build on the partnerships with culturally diverse journalism organizations. And she’d like to launch a high-school program that would strengthen the pipeline for future investigative journalists.
“These are challenging times, but also a time of opportunity,” Fuentes said. “IRE is the acknowledged leader in training journalists to produce high-quality content, putting us in a prime position to expand the pool of diverse candidates and help newsrooms large and small reflect the communities they serve.”
Fuentes was chosen after a six-person search committee screened dozens of candidates. She impressed them with her practical experience in every critical element the committee cited as being important for the position. The board and staff also found her to be no-nonsense but affable.
“I’m enthusiastic about working with a passionate, open-minded board and a hard-working staff, dedicated members and visionary supporters who fund our work,” Fuentes said. “There’s much to be done, and we are going to do it together."
Former IRE board member Ziva Branstetter and IRE Vice President Mark J. Rochester co-chaired the committee. They were joined by Austin American-Statesman Editor Manny Garcia; University of Missouri Associate Professor Mark Horvit; Cindy Galli, director of investigative projects for ABC News and a current IRE board member; and Thompson, senior editor of station investigations for NPR.
Fuentes succeeds Doug Haddix, who left in January after nearly five years in the position. Fuentes will start the position on April 26.