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Three airlines offer discounts for IRE24 travel

Investigative Reporters and Editors is pleased to announce that the organization is partnering with three major airlines to provide discounts for those flying to California for the IRE24 conference in Anaheim June 20-23.

"In this tumultuous time for the journalism industry, we at IRE are doing everything we can to ensure that our best-in-class training is accessible and affordable for all reporters and editors,” said IRE Board President Brian M. Rosenthal. “We know that our members are facing enormous financial pressures, and we are committed to finding creative solutions to better serve their needs."

Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are the three companies that are offering the discounts for IRE24. The discounts are the result of work by Rosenthal and the board’s Affordability Task Force, chaired by Mark Katches of the Tampa Bay Times. The task force has been meeting regularly to discuss and develop recommendations for ways to reduce costs for those who need help to attend IRE conferences and other events.

Early-bird registration for the conference is open until April 22. The airline discounts are now available following the instructions below.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is offering a discount of 5 percent off published fares for those traveling to IRE24 from anywhere Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air flies in the continental 48 states (does not include Alaska or Hawaii) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA) or Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR).

Travel must take place between June 14- 27.

Request the special discount code by sending an email to logistics@ire.org. After receiving the discount code, go to alaska.air.com to book your flight.

Check baggage policies prior to travel.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines is offering special discounts for those traveling to IRE24 from anywhere around the world that Delta serves to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA), Long Beach Airport (LGB) or Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). Discounts range from 2 percent for the lowest fares to 10 percent for domestic business and first class fares and other discounts in between up to 25 percent for the highest transatlantic fares.

Travel must take place between June 14-28.

Click here to book your flights. Discounts will be applied automatically when you book. You may also call Delta Meeting Network® at 1-800-328-1111 Monday–Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (EST) and refer to meeting event code NY3AS to book your flight. There is NO service fee for reservations booked and ticketed via the reservation 800 number.

Check baggage policies prior to travel.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is offering a discount of 2 percent to 5 percent depending on fare category for those traveling to IRE24 from any airport Southwest serves to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), Long Beach Airport (LGB), Ontario Airport (ONT) or John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA).

Travel must take place between June 17-26.

Click here to book your flight. Discounts will be applied automatically when the fares are listed. Rapid Rewards members also will receive 25 percent bonus miles.

First two checked bags are free.

"In a difficult year for journalism, the winners of the 2023 IRE Awards give us hope,” said Lily Jamali, chair of the IRE Awards contest committee. “The work of these dogged journalists reflects an ongoing commitment to truth and accountability against a backdrop of dwindling industry resources. Entries showed the powerful impact that can come from combining investigative reporting techniques with vivid storytelling. Our colleagues at times put themselves at great risk. They nevertheless got the story and helped bring about change.”

This year’s winners were selected from more than 450 entries. Since 1979, the IRE Awards have recognized the most outstanding watchdog journalism of the year. The 2023 contest covers 19 categories across media platforms and a range of market sizes. The top award is the IRE Medal, given to winners of the FOI Award and Tom Renner Award each year. Contest committees may designate IRE Medals for additional work deserving special recognition for remarkable impact and accomplishment. Three newsrooms received IRE Medals this year. 

Note: Contest entry materials from IRE Award winners and finalists will be made available in the IRE Resource Center. You must be logged in with your IRE membership to access the IRE Resource Center. 

Correction: The April 5, 2024, announcement of the 2023 IRE Award winners and finalists was updated on April 12, 2024, to include a second winner for the Print/Online - Division III category. The winning entry from Tampa Bay Times was accidentally omitted from the original post. We regret the error.


2023 IRE Award Winners & Finalists

FOI Award 

Winner (and IRE Medal recipient): "Secret Canada," The Globe and Mail

By Tom Cardoso, Robyn Doolittle, Carys Mills, Mahima Singh and Ming Wong

Judges’ comments: This sweeping report from The Globe and Mail is the one of the most ambitious public records projects ever published. Its bold combination of investigative analysis and public education reconnected a nation with the democratic ideals enshrined in its freedom of information law.

Finalists:

Tom Renner Award (for Covering Organized Crime or Other Criminal Acts)

Winner (and IRE Medal recipient): "America, Global Gun Pusher," Bloomberg News

By Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, Jessica Brice, Monte Reel, Eric Fan, Natalie Obiko Pearson, Michael Smith and Chris Cannon

Judges’ comments: This international investigation revealed the U.S. government profits from and promotes the sale of American guns around the world, threatening political stability in emerging democracies, fueling gang violence and undermining its own stated foreign policy. After its publication, the Biden administration halted the export of most guns for 90 days and ordered a review of the government’s support of the U.S. gun industry. The team spent a year accumulating and deciphering data from a number of countries, including confidential case files from Latin America. This series incorporated especially striking informational graphics and network-quality video in addition to clear, vivid storytelling to keep the judges absorbed from beginning to end. 

Finalists:

Print/Online - Division I

Winner (and IRE Medal recipient): "Friends of the Court," ProPublica

By Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Brett Murphy, Alex Mierjeski and Kirsten Berg

Judges’ comments: In this extraordinary series, ProPublica reporters unearthed the most significant ethics scandal to hit the modern-day Supreme Court, an institution that has long shrouded itself in a veil of secrecy. The team showed the hypocrisy that lurked beneath that veil in a manner that has proven unassailable despite many failed attempts to challenge their reporting. This ambitious project, revealing how certain sitting justices benefitted from the largesse of wealthy tycoons, sparked a national conversation on judicial reform and prompted the adoption of the court’s first-ever ethics code. From building their own database of Alaska fishing licenses to tracking down yacht workers scattered around the globe, “Friends of the Court” offers a masterclass in investigative journalism. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote more than a century ago, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” ProPublica’s reporters showed just how impactful sunlight can be.

Finalists: 

Print/Online - Division II

Winner: "Bleeding Out," The Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News 

By Lauren Caruba, Ari Sen and Smiley Pool

Judges’ comments: This was a comprehensive investigation into a national health crisis hiding in plain sight: the tens of thousands of Americans who bleed to death from potentially survivable injuries each year. The team reviewed more than 300 medical journal articles and did exhaustive data work to create a map showing the distance from any address to the closest trauma center, highlighting the stark disparities between rural and urban communities. The judges were impressed by the in-depth reporting, clear writing, compelling presentation and focus on solutions to this pressing issue.

Finalists:

Print/Online - Division III (two winners)

Winner: "The Bitter End," The Arizona Republic

By Caitlin McGlade, Sahana Jayaraman and Melina Walling

Judges’ comments: Nursing home abuse is sadly a familiar story, afflicting vulnerable seniors at the hands of mostly low-paid, under-supervised staff. But less familiar is deadly violence against seniors, particularly those with dementia, at the hands of other residents. The Arizona Republic unearthed a disturbing pattern of resident-on-resident harm, with seniors suffering physical and sexual assault at the hands of other seniors, chiefly as a result of neglect, poor staff training and high turnover. The reporting team filed more than 40 public records requests for police calls to 400 facilities, built a database to track cases and calls, then wrote a Python script to scrape the state’s citation system. The result was an impressive package that highlighted a little-known problem that showed state policy protected secrets instead of seniors, benefiting an underregulated industry.

Winner: “Deadly Dose”

By Helen Freund, Sam Ogozalek, Langston Taylor, Hannah Critchfield and Kirby Wilson

Judges’ comments: This compelling investigation left virtually no stone unturned in its exploration of kratom, a substance that has been linked to "legal morphine" despite its risks. Members of the team showed admirable initiative as they exposed the industry's supply chain, marketing tactics and lobbying efforts in states across the country. In addition to its exhaustive efforts involved in tracking kratom overdoses, the Tampa Bay Times centered families affected by promoters of this unregulated substance, and furthered the public's understanding of an emerging health threat.

Finalists:

Print/Online - Division IV

Winner: "Ghost Tags: Inside New York City’s Black Market for Temporary License Plates," Streetsblog

By Jesse Coburn

Judges’ comments: This entry had one of the best lines in all of the entries and is the gold standard of reporting on this issue. The story did the police’s job for them, handing them their investigation on a silver platter. This story showed impact, had striking visuals and is relatable to people across the country. The more the story went on, the better it got, and it left no stone unturned.

Finalists:

Video - Division I

Winner: "War Crimes Investigations: Uprooted," The Kyiv Independent

By Olesia Bida, Vitalii Havura, Kostiantyn Nechyporenko, Liza Pyrozhkova and Yevheniia Motorevska

Judges’ comments: This was a searing and comprehensive piece of reporting that unmasked the Russian government’s abduction and relocation of Ukrainian children, making an emotional impact far greater than a list of names and numbers or scattered news reports ever could. Judges were also impressed by the team’s use of open-source intelligence and strong accountability interviews with the specific officials responsible for taking children from their homes and families — all work that will likely stand as an important testament once the war is over.

Finalists:

Video - Division II (two winners)

Winner: "Against All Enemies," NBC5 / KXAS-TV Dallas-Fort Worth

By Scott Friedman, Eva Parks, Bonnie Moon, Edward Ayala and Michael Ortiz

Judges’ comments: This team relentlessly pursued public records and scoured social media about the training an Oath Keeper veteran was providing hundreds of Texas law enforcement officers: that their authority is above that of the U.S. Supreme Court and that county sheriffs are more powerful than the FBI. KXAS discovered the officers earned continuing education credit for the classes and that the Texas department overseeing the program didn’t even know the curriculum. The team took the familiar story of the Oath Keepers and Jan. 6 much deeper and broader. Their work resulted in state investigations and policy changes. It is a testament to the value of persistent follow-up on the stories we think we already know. 

Winner: "Coffee City Police," KHOU-TV

By Jeremy Rogalski, John Gibson and Jennifer Cobb

Judges’ comments: This captivating series demonstrates the success of laser focus on a local story. Cross-referencing thousands of records revealed many of the officers in a tiny town, including the chief, worked lucrative part-time jobs hours away and that half had been fired, demoted, or discharged from their previous jobs. KHOU’s reporting kept the judges hooked. After it ran, the city council shut down the police department and filed charges against seven former officers. 

Finalists:

Video - Division III

Winner: "The Thin Blurred Line," WSMV-TV

Jeremy Finley, Meredith Whittemore, Jason Finley and Jeff Bishop

Judges’ comments: This dogged series of reports by Jeremy Finley and the WSMV team exposed how Tennessee officials repeatedly have allowed unlicensed staffers to wear badges, carry guns and falsely present themselves as police officers. Their diligent and direct work made an impact.

Finalists:

Video - Division IV

Winner: "Side Hustle," WLBT-TV

By C.J. LeMaster, Brenden Davis and Karlos Sanders

Judges’ comments: This well-presented series unearthed brazen corruption by two public officials — a mayor and a police chief — who pulled in other taxpayer-funded salaries while supposedly doing their day jobs. This investigation relied on meticulous documentation and spun their findings into a compelling story that got results. 

Finalists:


Audio - Large

Winner: "Unguarded," WLRN News

By Daniel Rivero, Joshua Ceballos, Jessica Bakeman, Sergio Bustos and Matheus Sanchez

Judges’ comments: Reporters uncovered a scheme where a government-funded nonprofit entrusted to care for adults deemed incapacitated by the courts was selling their homes for below-market value to companies connected to the Miami city attorney, which were then flipping them for a profit. The series had an immediate impact, with the county launching an investigation into the program and Miami firing the city attorney.

Finalist: 

Audio - Small

Winner: "Invasive and Incomplete: How Flood Cleanup Left Eastern Kentucky Feeling Violated and Vulnerable," Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

By Jared Bennett and Justin Hicks

Judges’ comments: This project tackled an important topic, how eastern Kentucky — one of the poorest regions in a state with a high overall poverty level — dealt with the cleanup of a devastating rainstorm and flood. Reporters tracked down leads about problems with debris cleanup contractors, including families that had their home demolished without their permission. The reporting team found that wealthy and powerful contractors paid off workers and secured inflated government contracts. Reporters spent a year poring over thousands of debris tickets and invoices to discover a pattern of abusive contractor behavior, which has since led to multiple lawsuits. 

Finalists: 

Investigations Triggered by Breaking News

Winner: "Trail of Incompetence: The Unjustified Raid on a Kansas Newsroom," KSHB 41

By Jessica McMaster, Chris Morrison, Chase Lucas, Jake Weller and Lisa McCormick

Judges’ comments: The story of a raid on a Kansas newspaper became a national outrage, but KSHB persisted after the national spotlight faded. The station’s relentless pursuit of the truth uncovered lies in the police chief’s affidavit justifying the search warrant, ultimately leading to his suspension. The judges were impressed by the reporter’s push for transparency and fight for public records.

Finalist:

Sports Investigations

Winner: "Boxer Pensions on the Ropes," Los Angeles Times

By Melody Gutierrez

Judges’ comments: "Boxer Pensions on the Ropes" shows how at its best, investigative journalism can both reveal injustices and lead to change. These stories exposed multiple failures by administrators of a pension program envisioned as a safety net for boxers who fought in California. Decades later, not only was the program underfunded, many boxers that were supposed to benefit had no idea it existed. With poignant portraits sprinkled throughout, the series drove home the systemic failure to support these fighters when their careers are over. The judges were also impressed with the tenacity involved in obtaining key information not initially released in public records. The effort ultimately ensured that dozens of checks made it to people who needed them.

Finalists:

Student - Large

Winner: "Gambling on Campus," Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

By Julian Basena, Josh Caplan, Shane Connuck, Sam Draddy, Victoria Ifatusin, Kevin McNulty, Ross O'Keefe, Derek Ohringer, Shannon Scovel, Sydnee Singletary, Blake Townsend, Hanna Zakharenko and Matthew Wynn

Judges’ comments: An impressive effort. The broad survey helped show the breadth of the investigation. This is a system story holding the universities accountable. The story also identified shortfalls, which allow universities to skirt accountability

Finalist:

Student - Small

Winner: "‘Our Community Has Become a Commodity’: How Princeton’s Historically Black Community is Fading," The Daily Princetonian

By Charlie Roth

Judges’ comments: This story’s combination of complex data journalism and good shoe-leather reporting made this ambitious piece easily stand out. The judges also appreciated the way the reporter presented the data in a clear and transparent way that didn’t distract from the story’s impact. The moving on-the-ground testimonies collected from the real people at the heart of the data tied everything together. 

Finalists:

Book

Winner: "Inflamed: Abandonment, Heroism, and Outrage in Wine Country's Deadliest Firestorm"

By Anne E. Belden and Paul Gullixson with contributing author/editor Lauren A. Spates

Judge’s comments: The book combined strong investigative journalism with captivating literary journalism, engaging the reader with strong storytelling. The authors included vivid descriptions of the subjects’ lives that helped the reader feel invested in the subjects. The authors also used local journalists to help tell the story and placed us at the center of some of the intense moments, like when a resident admonished her adult daughter for “dropping the f-bomb” as fire loomed outside and they were trying to escape. The book lets journalism do the talking.

Finalist: 

Longform Journalism in Video

Winner: “The Holly”

By Julian Rubinstein with support from Rocky Mountain PBS

Judge’s comments: This documentary provided a raw, rare window into the politics of gang-controlled neighborhoods. The filmmaker’s ability to build trust with reluctant or fearful sources so viewers could hear their insight was a home run. It was old-school street reporting at its best. Judges noted that “The Holly” avoided simplifying the roots of violent crime into good character versus bad character categories. It was well-shot, well-told and memorable.

Finalist:

Longform Journalism in Audio

Winner: "Murder in Boston Podcast," The Boston Globe 

By Adrian Walker, Evan Allen, Kristin Nelson, Elizabeth Koh, Andrew Ryan and Brendan McCarthy

Judges’ comments: This project revealed shocking new information about the 1989 crime, uncovered powerful audio and turned its investigative attention to the experience of the people of Mission Hill, the African-American neighborhood that was slandered by Charles Stuart and subject to a campaign of abuse by the Boston police department in the months after Stuart murdered his wife and lied to the police saying "a black male" had shot her. That threadbare description was enough to drive Boston city government, the city's white population and — crucially — the news media into a frenzy. In beautifully edited and finely crafted episodes, "Murder in Boston" does more than excellent investigative work and powerful storytelling. It expands the range of what can be considered documentary texts, taking seriously the abuse suffered by the Black men and their families caught in Boston's dragnet and positioning the sensational crime in the history of racism in Boston and beyond. "Murder in Boston" turns its scrutiny not only on the police department and mayor's office, but on the Globe itself and asks probing questions about why so many in the city and the newsroom were willing to run with Charles Stewart's racist lie. It's a fine work of investigative journalism in audio, but it is also more than the sum of its parts, a work of conscience, sociology and reckoning.

Finalists:

Judges and screeners

Contest entries are screened and judged by IRE members who are working journalists. Work that includes a significant role by any member of the IRE Contest Committee or the IRE Board may not be entered in the contest. Work in which board members did not play a significant editorial role can be entered. First-round screeners were not allowed to review categories in which their news organization could compete.

Serving on the Contest Committee represents a significant sacrifice on the part of the individual contest judge — and often an entire newsroom — that may have done outstanding investigative work.

This year’s contest judges:

To ensure fairness and transparency, some judges were not present during deliberations in specific categories due to potential conflicts of interest. They were:

First-round screeners by category: 

Thank you, judges and screeners!

About Investigative Reporters and Editors

IRE, founded in 1975, is a nonprofit professional organization dedicated to training and supporting journalists who pursue investigative stories. IRE also operates the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), a joint program with the Missouri School of Journalism.

For questions or concerns about the IRE Awards please contact Doug Meigs, dougm@ire.org.

NICAR24 was like a homecoming for St. Louis data journalist Janelle O’Dea.

“It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year,” O’Dea said. “If I'm around other journalists when I say that, they're like, ‘Wow, you're such a nerd.’ And I'm like, ‘Yes I am. Proud to be!’”

This conference was especially meaningful because it was her 10th NICAR, O’Dea explained to her nail artist a day before flying out to Baltimore. She showed a photo of the NICAR24 t-shirt, designed by Realtor.com's Evan Wyloge, and talked about how the organization helped kick start her career. 

Nail artist Heather Young took it from there.

“She just understood the assignment so quick,” O’Dea said.

O’Dea went to her first NICAR Conference in 2014, as a college senior at the University of Illinois. That conference, which also took place in Baltimore, introduced her to a new world and new way of thinking.

“I barely knew what data journalism was at that point, but after I went to that NICAR, I was like, this is definitely what I want to do,” O’Dea said. “I basically said to myself, ‘I don't totally understand all the conversations that are happening around me, but I'm gonna hang out here for as long as it takes me to figure it out.’ And that’s kind of what I did.”

That’s a common theme at NICAR. People come back year after year to grow their skills and share what they know with others. 

Some students turn into teachers — like Katherine Oung, who taught other student journalists how to build a data desk at their school publication. And Emilia Ruzicka, who spoke on four panels at NICAR24, just four years after attending their first conference!

Nick Devlin, of CBS News, and Emilia Ruzicka, of Univ. of Virginia, at NICAR24.

Then there are journalists who show up with new family members — like IRE board president Brian Rosenthal, who got married last year and attended NICAR24 with his wife Millie Tran. And Andrea Suozzo, who got a visit from her little one after teaching “First Python notebook!”

Andrea Suozzo and her family after teaching a class at NICAR24.

Whether you’ve changed jobs, switched beats or moved cities, NICAR is a special place to see our community members grow professionally and personally.

“NICAR fits into that bucket of friendships that you call your chosen family,” said Lauren Grandestaff, IRE’s director of content. “And it is such a close-knit community, but a lot of us only see each other once a year at best. So it does have a family reunion type of vibe to it.”

This is a group that sticks together during tough times, too. 

Wall Street Journal reporters passed out “Free Evan Now” stickers to support their colleague Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia for the last year. Friends and colleagues gathered to remember Fazil Khan, a New York City journalist who died in a tragic fire just weeks before the conference.

Meanwhile, many people are coping with what feels like nonstop news of layoffs, cutbacks and closures in 2024. NICAR hosted several sessions focused on employment and well-being. One was called “Weathering the stormy news business,” led by Tara García Mathewson and Jon Keegan of The Markup, and Paroma Soni of Politico.

Soni posted on X ahead of the session: “Come talk about the constant fear of layoffs with me! It’ll be so fun!!”

They shared tips for how to stay resilient in an ever-changing field: cataloging your work on a website, cultivating your personal brand, maybe writing a newsletter. Another big piece of advice was to build your network through groups like IRE.

“We discussed how you can actually build those professional networks in a way that's not just your stereotypical networking, but more so in a way that’s really getting to know people,” Soni said. “Like building friendships, as opposed to one-off networking events.”

NICAR24 attendees took that to heart. Some people played board games and sang karaoke in the evenings after sessions. At “Code Buddies” on Saturday, about two dozen people got together to talk and get help on projects. 

“It’s really great to see attendees want to hang out outside of the normally scheduled programming and want to be a part of the community,” Grandestaff said. “That is such an important thing for us as staff, to make everyone feel welcome and included.”

O’Dea, who was excited to reunite with her people, had to unexpectedly switch gears during the conference. On the second day of NICAR24, she received the news that she was being laid off from the Center for Public Integrity. 

Almost immediately, her friends were waiting with hugs and drinks. They sang karaoke that night to let out the emotions. (O’Dea sang “Before he cheats” and “Put your records on.”)

It sounds strange, she admits, but the bad news didn’t ruin NICAR for her. She stayed, learned networked, taught sessions. Her Sunday morning class, “The 411 on 311,” was “the best that it has ever gone.”

“I just so happened to be in the one place where I could get the most support and most opportunities for what's coming next,” O’Dea said. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate that it happened the way that it did.”

As for the industry? Journalists like O’Dea and Soni are hanging on, despite the hardships. They feel drawn to the calling, and like other NICAR24 attendees, have a strong community to lean on.

“Immediately after it happened, I had this overwhelming feeling of, ‘Everything is going to be OK,’” O’Dea said. “I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but I'm going to figure this out. I always have figured it out.”

“Journalism will always be necessary,” Soni said. “It may change shape, maybe not every small newsroom is going to survive. But you also need it. … The media is still a very vital part of the American political and social landscape. ... I think it's worth holding on to.”

Want more NICAR24 content? See our full photo album here and review conference sessions here. We will continue adding tipsheets and session recordings in the coming days.

IRE has a Support a Journalist program to help members going through layoffs, furloughs or job terminations. Learn more about the program here.

Eight newsrooms will receive custom, grant-funded watchdog training in the coming year through IRE’s Total Newsroom Training program.

Total Newsroom Training provides two days of intensive, personalized training for small and medium-sized newsrooms dedicated to watchdog journalism. This is the 11th year Investigative Reporters and Editors has offered the program, and will reach the milestone of 100 newsrooms trained under TNT in 2024.

"The fundamental mission of IRE is to provide the best in data analysis and investigative journalism training, providing a thriving network of like-minded journalists for year round collaboration to help improve the quality of our industry," said IRE Executive Director Diana R. Fuentes. "TNT helps us accomplish our mission. The graduates of TNT workshops have gone on to produce stories that have changed laws and changed lives in the communities they serve. It is democracy in action, and we are proud to be a part of that."

TNT newsroom training is based on the specific needs of each individual newsroom and includes sessions ranging from how to successfully handle public records battles to hands-on learning of spreadsheets and programming to topic-focused training such as best practices in covering education, law enforcement and underrepresented communities.

This year’s newsrooms were chosen from a record number of applicants.

The selected newsrooms have a wide range of specialties and talents, ranging from bilingual coverage of Bay Area immigrant communities, to national LGBTQ+ issues, climate change and more.

Congratulations to the winning newsrooms:

Learn more about becoming a member of IRE and member benefits.

Over the course of 2023, IRE fellows Halima Gikandi, Leslie Rangel and Kaylee Tornay worked hard and dug deep to share important, investigative reporting with their communities.

They asked questions about abuse allegations, spoke to experts about mental health and analyzed data on child care. We’re proud to share their investigations, part of the Chauncey Bailey Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship program.

Halima Gikandi

Halima Gikandi, of The World, found several allegations of abuse, neglect and misconduct at two Uganda orphanages. Listen to her multi-part series "No place to call home":

“Halima is relentless, tenacious and she reaches for big stories,” Andrew Lehren, Gikandi’s IRE mentor, shared on LinkedIn.

Leslie Rangel

Leslie Rangel, of KTBC’s Good Day Austin, highlighted the mental health crisis for kids in Texas, which ranks last in the nation for access to mental healthcare. Watch “Admitted,” her multi-part series: Texas mental health crisis: Parents and professionals say the state is failing children

“I wanted to be a journalist… to make sure that stories were being told of people who look like me, people who look different and have different lived experiences. And to really just bring more accountability and justice to everyone’s story,” Rangel told us at IRE23 in Orlando.

Kaylee Tornay

Kaylee Tornay, of InvestigateWest, reported on lack of child care supply in Oregon. Several counties are considered “severe” child care deserts for infants and toddlers, despite tens of millions dollars of investments. Read her story: Badly Needed Infant And Toddler Care Investments Aren’t Reaching Oregon’s North Coast

“It feels really rewarding to work this long on understanding such a complicated topic, and I’m happy with the result,” Tornay told IRE after her project was completed in November. “And there’s more to come!”

The Chauncey Bailey Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship is intended to prepare and support a journalist of color for a solid career in investigative reporting. Fellows attended IRE conferences, trained at data bootcamps and received mentoring to work on their projects. Learn more about the fellowship here.

Starting this spring, IRE professional members will get free access to FOIAengine, a database for researching FOIA requests. The tool, created last year by PoliScio Analytics, contains more than 170,000 FOIA request records from 2021 to the present.

PoliScio co-founders Randy Miller, an attorney, and John Jenkins, a journalist, created FOIAengine in part to replace the public record request database on FOIAonline.gov, which the federal government maintained until shutting it down in October 2023.

Like the FOIAonline database, FOIAengine provides data about the record requests only, not the results of the requests. The new tool has more robust searching capabilities, and standardizes data from different agencies to make it easier to work with. You can search and filter records by the agency the request was submitted to, the requester's organization and type (news media, law firm, financial institution, etc.), the requester’s name, date and the text of the request. You can also copy or export 100 records at a time to analyze in other tools.

Jenkins points out that journalists are not the only ones using FOIA. Knowing who is asking for what information can mean that something of interest is going on – or is about to.

“It’s a set of signals,” he said. “Nobody does this for the hell of it. They always have an agenda.”

The PoliScio team is exhibiting at the NICAR Conference in Baltimore this week, offering demonstrations of FOIAengine. You can also see examples of stories that came from FOIAengine research on the PoliScio website and Law Street Media.

Free access to FOIAengine will be available only to professional members of IRE. Details on how to request an account will be coming soon.

Learn more about becoming a member of IRE and member benefits.

(March 6, 2024) COLUMBIA, Missouri — Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), the largest professional journalism association in the United States, is launching a new initiative to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of its founding.

The nonprofit organization, which will reach the milestone in 2025, has created a special task force to plan events to celebrate the occasion.

“Since 1975, IRE has played a crucial role in fostering investigative journalism that has informed the public, held leaders accountable and ultimately made the world better,” said IRE President Brian M. Rosenthal, an investigative reporter at The New York Times. “Now it is time to honor that storied history – and lay a foundation for our next 50 years, and beyond.”

IRE began as a collaborative effort to encourage high-quality investigative reporting during a hotly competitive time in the industry in the wake of the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The founders chose the name IRE in part because they thought it was fitting for a group of impassioned investigators.

The fledgling organization solidified after one of its early members, Don Bolles of the Arizona Republic, was murdered in 1976 while reporting on an investigation and other members banded together from across the country to finish his work.

The new task force will be co-chaired by former IRE President David Boardman, dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, and Tisha Thompson, an investigative reporter at ESPN and longtime IRE leader.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate the profound impact of IRE in its first five decades, and to build a foundation for the next five decades,” Boardman said. “I’m excited and honored to be a part of this.”

“I credit IRE/NICAR and its membership for so much of my professional success,” Thompson said. “I am honored to work with David and the other incredible journalists on this task force to celebrate IRE’s history, its bright future, and a remarkable fellowship of journalists helping journalists.”

The task force includes 15 other distinguished reporters and editors from all corners of the industry, a diverse list of some of the world’s top journalists. Their bios are below.

IRE is looking for additional volunteers to support this effort. Boardman and Thompson are planning to create subcommittees to work on various aspects of the initiative. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact president@ire.org

If you would like to donate to honor IRE’s 50th Anniversary, please go to ire.org/donate  and specify that your donation is for the anniversary.  

Investigative Reporters and Editors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It has nearly 5,000 members, making it the largest professional journalism organization in the U.S.

Members of the IRE 50th Anniversary Task Force:

David Boardman, a co-chair of the Task Force, is the dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University. Previously he was the executive editor of The Seattle Times. He served on the IRE Board of Directors between 1997 and 2007, including two terms as the IRE President.

Tisha Thompson, a co-chair of the Task Force, is an investigative reporter at ESPN. Previously she was an investigative reporter at several local television stations in the Washington, D.C., area. She attended her first IRE Conference as a high schooler in 1993 and has played a leadership role in the organization since the early 2000s.

Helena Bengtsson is data journalism editor at Gota Media, a publishing company with 13 titles in Sweden. Previously she worked at Sweden’s national television broadcaster and served as editor of data projects at The Guardian in the U.K. She has frequently helped with organizing NICAR, the annual data journalism conference run by IRE.

Ashley Brown is a senior editor at All Things Considered at NPR. Previously she worked as a producer at ABC News on This Week and in local television news. She was an IRE Philip L. Graham Fellowship recipient in 2013.

Len Downie is a professor at the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University. Previously he worked for 44 years at the Washington Post, including 17 years as the executive editor. He is a co-founder of IRE and one of the original nine members of the Board of Directors. He also served on the Board between 2009 and 2015. 

Cindy Galli is the Executive Producer of the Investigative Unit at ABC News. Previously she was on the investigative team at Inside Edition and ABC’s local station in San Francisco. She has served on the IRE Board of Directors since 2019, including a stint as the IRE Vice President.

Manny Garcia is the executive editor of the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA Today Network at Gannett. Previously he ran newspapers in Florida. He served on the IRE Board of Directors from 2006 to 2014, including a stint as the IRE President.

Rick Gevers is the owner of Rick Gevers & Associates, which represents many broadcast journalists across the United States. Previously he worked as a local television news director. He has served on the IRE Board of Directors since 2023.

Dianna Hunt is national editor at Indian Country Today, a daily digital news platform that covers the Indigenous world. Previously she was an editor at newspapers in Texas. She served on the IRE Board of Directors between 2003 and 2008.

Ron Nixon is the vice president for investigations, enterprise, partnerships and grants at the Associated Press. Previously he was a reporter at The New York Times. He worked on the IRE Staff as a training director from 2000 to 2003.

Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter at The New York Times. Previously he worked as a local reporter in Texas and Washington State. He has served on the IRE Board of Directors since 2019, and he is currently the IRE President.

Jim Steele is a retired investigative journalist and author who wrote many iconic stories while at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Time and Vanity Fair. He is one of four people ever to win the IRE Founder’s Award for his contributions to the organization and the industry.

Lea Thompson is a retired investigative journalist who worked for 14 years as the chief consumer correspondent at NBC News. She served on the IRE Board of Directors between 2006 and 2013, including a stint as the IRE Treasurer.

Sisi Wei is the editor-in-chief of The Markup, a nonprofit news publication focused on the impact of technology on society. Previously she worked as a news app developer and editor at ProPublica. She served on the IRE Governance Committee.

Christine Willmsen is the managing editor for investigations at WBUR, the public radio station in Boston. Previously she was an investigative reporter at The Seattle Times and a Nieman Fellow. She is a frequent speaker at IRE conferences and other events.

Rick Yarborough is senior producer at WRC-TV, the NBC station in Washington, D.C. He previously worked at several other local television stations in D.C. and the Carolinas. He is a frequent speaker at IRE conferences and other events.

Lee Zurik is the chief investigative reporter at Fox 8 New Orleans and the vice president of investigations at Gray TV. He previously worked at several stations across the South. He served on the IRE Board of Directors between 2016 and 2020, including a stint as the IRE Vice President.

The 2024 NICAR Conference is just around the corner. This year, members are heading to Charm City. IRE’s annual data journalism conference will host amazing sessions March 7-10. But what is there to do outside of conference sessions and networking in Baltimore? 

Thanks to NICAR24 Regional Committee members Tisha Thompson, Mallory Sofastaii and Kimi Yoshino, we’ve got you covered! Thompson is an investigative reporter with ESPN. Sofastaii is a consumer investigative reporter at WMAR-2 in Baltimore. Yoshino is editor-in-chief of The Baltimore Banner

Need a bite to eat? These options are just a walk away!

Willing to grab a bite a little farther away? Thompson recommends The PaperMoon Diner to visit if you want to get a “John Waters” vibe. This eclectic restaurant serves a plethora of menu options, including a vegan selection. 

Yoshino suggests folks keen to eat outside of the immediate conference vicinity to visit Clavel: A James Beard-nominated Mexican restaurant with a great selection of mezcal; however, they don't take reservations. But there are two amazing bars that you can drink at while waiting — Fadensonnen (natural wine bar) and W.C. Harlan (speakeasy type and right across the street from Clavel).

For those coming or going by train, the James Beard-nominated Alma Cocina Latina serves Venezuelan food near the train station with excellent plating and flavors. 

What about nightlife? These are just a quick walk.

Or do you want to get away from the conference venue after sessions wrap? For folks willing to travel farther, Sofastaii suggests an excursion to TopGolf, Horseshoe Casino or the neighborhood of Federal Hill to do the trick. 

So now you’ve got a bite and a drink. What about sightseeing?

Consider also these additional local tips for running and sightseeing, on-screen pop culture and — last but not least — the iconic Mr. Trash Wheel. Read on for more details:

Routes on foot and by water

Cinema and film 

And there’s plenty for television and cinema aficionados. Fans of Baltimore native John Waters can seek out odd spots to enjoy around town. Fans of “The Wire” (set and produced in Baltimore) will also have plenty to discover while touring the area. Likewise, Yoshino says fans of “Homicide: Life on the Street” have added reason to drop by Kooper’s Tavern (noted in the regional committee’s local food suggestions) — it’s across the street from the Pendry Hotel (the site of the Baltimore Police Department in the show) and the bar has the old Homicide white board, used to keep track of solved and unsolved homicides. “Of course, when I went in for a drink and to see the board, nobody that worked there had ever seen the show or knew what I was talking about!”

Mr. Trash Wheel

Finally, worth noting to NICAR attendees, the conference venue is located next to one of Baltimore’s most iconic landmarks – Mr. Trash Wheel. According to the website for the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, “Mr. Trash Wheel is a social media celebrity, Baltimore landmark, and part of the semi-autonomous trash interceptor family in the Baltimore Harbor and surrounding waters.” And because we love data at NICAR, you can enjoy a decade’s worth of Mr. Trash Wheel data here.

IRE is proud to partner with Sunshine Week this year. 

National Sunshine Week, celebrated annually in mid-March, is a public awareness campaign to shine a light on the importance of public records and open government. It’s a reminder to journalists and citizens alike — we have a right to know what’s going on in government!

“It’s a cause everyone can support,” David Cuillier, director of the Brechner Freedom of Information Project, wrote in The IRE Journal this month. 

“As Stanford’s James Hamilton calculated in his ‘Democracy’s Detectives’ book, for every dollar spent on records-based investigative reporting, society reaps $287 in benefits. That is a phenomenal return on investment.”

David Cuillier, "Bright tips for public support, Sunshine Week" (The IRE Journal, Q1 2024)

This year Sunshine Week runs March 10-16, with awareness and training events hosted by organizations in journalism, education, government and other sectors. 

Cuillier shared ideas to celebrate Sunshine Week in his FOI Files column in the latest IRE Journal:

You can also attend IRE’s Sunshine Week webinar “25 records to request now” on Thursday, March 14. IRE executive director Diana Fuentes will walk you through a slew of interesting and informative public records in this hour-long session!

And if you’re looking for guidance on public records on a specific beat, read our other FOI Files columns in previous editions of The IRE Journal (IRE members have access to The IRE Journal for free, but nonmembers can also purchase digital versions of these editions):

For more ideas, resources and events, visit sunshineweek.org.

The results are in! Here's the lineup for Lightning Talks at the NICAR24 conference in Baltimore next week, in speaking order:

1. Your own worst enemy: How to organize your work so your future self won't hate you | Justin Myers, Chicago Sun-Times

You might have been here before: trying to pick apart some old analysis or script, wondering in anger what kind of jerk designed it this way — only to realize that jerk was you. I've been in that situation, too, and over the years I've found some ways to be kinder to the ever-present coworker known as My Future Self. I'd like to share some of them.

2. Visuals are data, too! | Brenna Smith, The Baltimore Banner

Too often, visuals are afterthoughts in stories. However, the emergence of visual forensics as a storytelling technique has changed that narrative, putting visuals front and center as key investigative findings. In this Lighting Talks session, Baltimore Banner reporter and former New York Times Visual Investigations fellow Brenna Smith will walk you through how to take an analytical approach to visuals, proving that newsrooms across the country can produce "visual investigations" without a New York Times budget.

3. Datasette Enrichments: Run bulk operations to enrich your data | Simon Willison, Datasette

Datasette Enrichments is a new tool that lets you take a table full of data and "enrich" it in various ways — run geocoders to populate latitudes and longitudes, clean up data with regular expressions and, most excitingly, pipe that data through GPT-4 (or GPT-4 Vision) with a prompt to extract or transform data. I'll demonstrate the feature in action and show how you can use it to process thousands of rows of data in all sorts of interesting ways.

4. Wait…who funds you? Finding out (on deadline) | Kyle Spencer, Reporting Right

Bad faith organizations with anti-democratic aims abound. But sometimes — and that’s by design —they can be hard to identify, which means you may be validating and/or legitimizing a group with radical goals (accidentally). How do you tell your readers who is behind the groups you quote, mention or allude to? This Lightning Talks session will give reporters and editors an easy 5-step process for figuring out what a group/nonprofit/think tank etc. really stands for — and who funds it. On deadline!

5. When charts lie | Todd Wallack, WBUR Boston 

Graphics are an essential tool for data journalists. But it's also easy to mislead readers — either by mistake or on purpose. I'll highlight some common ways charts can trick the eye.

6. Expand your sourcing horizon | Jui Sarwate, CBS News and Stations

Learn about the different ways you can reach a variety of sources using X (Twitter) lists, connecting to sources through non-profits and by just cold emailing/calling by the bucket-loads. 

7. How to take PDFs from strangers | David Huerta, Freedom of the Press Foundation

I'll be demonstrating the use of Dangerzone, a new tool actively developed by Freedom of the Press Foundation. Dangerzone allows journalists to create a malware-free copy of PDFs that may otherwise contain malicious code.

8. Follow the commodity then follow money: uncovering stories through commodity and supply chain data | Christopher Lambin, Global Witness

There is an array of data that can help investigators map the flow of physical commodities around the globe, including freight tracking, customs records, and satellite imagery. This presentation will explore how we can combine these sources to examine supply chains while investigating environmental harms, human rights abuses and sanctions evasion.

9. How to solve a murder while watching the World Cup | Catherine Rentz, independent journalist

I started building this database during the Women's World Cup (soccer!). It looked at what bad guys did as the evidence implicating them in violent crimes lay untested for decades. The results were frustrating: wrongful incarcerations and preventable violent crimes. Many jurisdictions have collections of cold case evidence like this that have remained "off the books" and untested for decades. Before long, I came across something shocking that led to a break in a 1983 unsolved murder of a college student in Baltimore County.

10. Do you know who runs your elections? | Michael Beckel, Issue One

There are more than 10,000 chief local election officials across the country. Monitoring them all would be a Herculean effort. Monitoring those is a key state or region is feasible — and necessary in understanding election administration challenges in 2024. Issue One's blockbuster analysis of Western states found that 40% of counties in the West have new chief local election officials since 2020 — and that the officials who left these positions took with them more than 1,800 years of combined experience. There is no better time than now to start getting to know your local election officials in your area!

Lightning Talks, a series of 5-minute talks at NICAR selected by the community, has become one of the most popular sessions at the conference. This year, you can attend the big event on Friday, March 8, from 5 - 6:15 p.m. in the Harbor Ballroom. 

After Lightning Talks, please stick around to remember Philip Meyer's legacy and help us congratulate the 2023 Philip Meyer Journalism Award winners.

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