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IRE21 Conference going virtual

The 2021 IRE Conference will again be a virtual event, bringing together members for five days of training, conversations and networking online June 14-18.

The #IRE21 conference had been scheduled for mid-June in Indianapolis. 

“We decided to move this year’s conference online again because the safety of our members matters most,” said Cheryl W. Thompson, IRE’s board president. “We will miss seeing everyone in person.”

Most sessions 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. Training sessions will be recorded and available for attendees on demand for up to one year on the conference platform. The event will also include fun social events, such as happy hours, networking and a celebration of the 2020 IRE Award winners. 

IRE is seeking ideas for conference sessions through March 22. Please fill out this form to suggest ideas for speakers, topics, and fun social sessions.

Nearly 3,000 journalists, educators and students attended the first-ever virtual IRE Conference in September 2020, taking part in more than 200 sessions. Members joined from more than 30 countries.

“The IRE20 Conference was such an energizing event during a very trying year for journalists,” said Denise Malan, IRE interim executive director. “We’re excited to bring our community together online again this year, and we can’t wait to see everyone in person and celebrate together when it’s safe to do so.”

The online format also allowed IRE to lower the cost of registration. Registration rates are about half of the usual in-person rates for IRE conferences, and IRE will be offering about 200 fellowships that include free registration and membership.

“IRE board and staff members recognize that journalists have limited resources now more than ever,” Malan said. “We want to help ensure our training remains accessible through lower costs and more fellowship opportunities.” 

What will registration cost for the virtual IRE21 conference?

Registration rates are:

Attendees must be members of current members of IRE through June ($70/professional, $25/students). 

When will registration open?

We expect to open registration in mid-April. 

Will you have fellowships available?

Yes! 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. Sign up to receive fellowship notices or watch IRE’s social media channels for application information. 

How do I give input on conference sessions?

We want to hear all of your ideas for the conference, including speakers you’d like to learn from, topics you want to delve into, and any fun ideas for social and networking in the virtual space. We’d also like to hear your ideas on the virtual format, and things that you liked (or didn’t like) from our last online conference to help us build an even better event.

Please fill out this form with your input by March 22. No idea is too big or too small! 

I’ve never been to a virtual conference. How will it work?

You’ll receive a secure link that will allow you (and only you!) to sign into the online conference. Once inside the virtual conference, you may browse the schedule, build your own personalized schedule, request one-on-one meetings with other attendees and much more. We will offer several options during any given time slot. The majority of sessions will feature video presentations with several speakers — typically using slides and tipsheets, similar to in-person events. You’ll be able to ask questions and interact with panelists in real time. We’ll also feature interactive social gatherings online.

Will I need special equipment or software to participate?

No. All you’ll need is Internet access and a computer, laptop or tablet — much as you need to participate in an online video meeting. To attend a virtual meeting on the Pathable platform, we strongly recommend using Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browsers and downloading the Zoom app. 

What if I’m working, attending class or dealing with other obligations that cause me to miss some sessions?

That’s the beauty of a virtual conference. Most sessions will be recorded and available to attendees for up to one year. You can view them at your convenience. Most sessions will include video plus any related tipsheets, slide decks and chat transcripts.

Will #IRE21 be useful to international journalists?

Absolutely. We encourage international journalists, educators and students to join us online for #IRE21. An affordable registration rate — plus no need to spend money on travel, lodging and meals — opens up opportunities for far more journalists around the world to join IRE for learning, inspiration and collaboration. We’ll also provide ways for international journalists to connect with one another during the conference and have some fellowships for international journalists.

Will there be swag?

Yes, T-shirts, mugs, stickers and other items will be available for purchase in the IRE Store and will be shipped to you.    

How can I become a sponsor of the virtual #IRE21 conference?

The virtual platform offers many exciting opportunities for sponsors, including virtual trade show booths. If you’d like information on the benefits of sponsoring #IRE21, please contact Chris Vachon, IRE director of partnerships, by email: chris@ire.org.

How can I keep up with new developments connected to #IRE21?

Please sign up here to receive e-mail updates about #IRE21. It’s the best way to stay up-to-date on the latest virtual conference news. 

What if I have other questions?

Please contact info@ire.org.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 IRE conference will be a virtual event rather than an in-person gathering. For the first time, attendees across the United States and around the world will be able to participate in the signature investigative reporting event via a secure, interactive digital platform.

“We’re disappointed not to be able to see our IRE family in person,” IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson said. “But large indoor gatherings continue to be a potential danger during a pandemic, and the health and safety of our attendees are our top priority.”

The #IRE20 conference had been scheduled for late August at National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Instead, a virtual #IRE20 global conference will be held Sept. 21-25. Most sessions will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Eastern time, to allow for participation across the United States and around the world. Most sessions will be recorded and available for attendees on demand for up to one year on the Pathable platform.

“This will be a historic event for IRE -- our first global virtual conference,” Executive Director Doug Haddix said. “As always, we’ll deliver a robust schedule filled with panels, demos and plenty of opportunities for attendees to interact one-on-one, in small groups and in larger gatherings.”

Ronan Farrow will give the keynote speech, as previously scheduled. Farrow is author of the best-selling “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.” His 2019 book details his efforts to investigate allegations of rape, sexual assault and abuse of women by powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and allegations of intimidation and cover-up by powerful institutions including the news media. Farrow is a contributing writer to The New Yorker. He previously worked as an anchor and investigative reporter at MSNBC and NBC News, with his print commentary and reporting appearing in publications including the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Registration is expected to open in mid- to late July. Until then, here are FAQs to provide information known at this point:

What happens if I already registered for the August conference?

You’ll receive an email with information about your options and instructions. You may:

What should I do if I already have reserved rooms at the Gaylord National Hotel?

Attendees who have reservations through the IRE room block at Gaylord National Hotel will be canceled directly by the hotel and any deposits will be refunded. 

How about airline, train or other travel arrangements?

IRE is not able to refund airline, train or other transportation ticket costs. Please contact your transportation company directly regarding ticket cancellations. During this time of heightened health concerns, many airlines have relaxed their cancellation policies.

What will registration cost for the virtual IRE20 conference?

The IRE Board of Directors is creating a task force to study pricing options. Rates will be set before registration opens in mid- to late July.

When will registration open?

Mid- to late July.

I’ve never been to a virtual conference. How will it work?

Once you’re registered, you’ll receive a secure link that will allow you (and only you!) to sign into the online conference a few days before the event begins on September 21. Once inside the virtual conference, you may browse the schedule, build your own personalized schedule, request one-on-one meetings with other attendees and much more. We expect to offer several options during any given time slot. The majority of sessions will feature video presentations with several speakers -- typically using slides and tipsheets, similar to in-person events. During most sessions, you’ll be able to ask questions and interact with panelists in real time. We’ll also feature interactive social gatherings online. A variety of one-hour and 30-minute sessions will be offered, with ample breaks, during the half-day conference blocks. Stay tuned for more details as we put together all of the offerings.

Will I need special equipment or software to participate?

No. All you’ll need is Internet access and a computer, laptop or tablet — much as you need to participate in an online video meeting. To attend a virtual meeting on the Pathable platform, we strongly recommend using Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browsers. 

What if I’m working, attending class or dealing with other obligations that cause me to miss some sessions?

That’s the beauty of a virtual conference. Most sessions will be recorded and available to attendees for up to one year. You can view them at your convenience. Most sessions will include video plus any related tipsheets, slide decks and chat transcripts.

How does a virtual conference provide value to university students and professors?

For colleges and universities, the #IRE20 conference will provide a wide array of high-caliber digital learning materials. The $50 rate for students is more affordable than many textbooks. We encourage professors to integrate the #IRE20 digital conference into their syllabi for the upcoming academic year. In addition, a fully revised new edition of The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook is available for use in classrooms and newsrooms. IRE members receive discounted pricing.

Will #IRE20 be useful to international journalists?

Absolutely. An in-person IRE conference typically attracts 150 or more international journalists. We encourage international journalists, educators and students to join us online for #IRE20. An affordable registration rate -- plus no need to spend money on travel, lodging and meals -- opens up opportunities for far more journalists around the world to join IRE for learning, inspiration and collaboration. We’ll also provide ways for international journalists to connect with one another during the conference.

Will there still be a mentorship program? 

Yes. We’ll start taking applications soon for mentors and mentees. Being online, this year’s program will look a little different. But IRE still will match mentors with mentees and arrange for them to meet at a special event during the online conference.

What about the IRE Awards luncheon?

We’ll honor all IRE Award finalists and winners as in past years with an inspirational video, just as we would have done in person. In addition, we’re exploring creative new ways for attendees to interact with award winners in small video meetups. The physical awards will be shipped to winners.

Will smaller master classes be offered?

Yes, stay tuned for details on these exciting add-ons to the conference. We plan to offer small, interactive workshops on interviewing, writing, open source research, verification and more.

Will there be swag?

To commemorate IRE’s first virtual conference, T-shirts and other items will be available for purchase in the IRE Store.    

How can I become a sponsor of the virtual #IRE20 conference?

We’re working with current #IRE20 sponsors to show them interactive opportunities in our virtual conference platform. If you’d like information on the benefits of sponsoring #IRE20, please contact Chris Vachon, IRE director of partnerships, by email: chris@ire.org.

How can I keep up with new developments connected to #IRE20?

Please sign up here to receive e-mail updates about #IRE20. It’s the best way to stay up-to-date on the latest virtual conference news. If you already signed up for #IRE20 email updates (for our in-person conference), your information is still on our email list.

What if I have other questions?

We don’t know all of the answers at this point, but feel free to email any questions to info@ire.org.

Acclaimed journalist Ronan Farrow will deliver the 2020 keynote address at the IRE national investigative journalism conference in June.

The conference, featuring nearly 400 speakers and 200 sessions, will take place June 18-21 in the Washington, D.C., area. More details, including links to registration and lodging, are available on the #IRE20 conference page.

We are thrilled that Ronan has accepted our invitation," said IRE board president Cheryl W. Thompson, an investigative correspondent for NPR. "His dogged investigative reporting helped spark a global movement, and we look forward to his inspiring and motivating message."

Farrow will speak June 20 during the annual IRE Awards Luncheon, which celebrates the best investigative journalism produced across all news platforms.

Farrow is author of the best-selling “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.” His 2019 book details his efforts to investigate allegations of rape, sexual assault and abuse of women by powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and allegations of intimidation and cover-up by powerful institutions including the news media.

Farrow is a contributing writer to The New Yorker, where his investigative work has won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the National Magazine Award and the George Polk Award, among other honors. He previously worked as an anchor and investigative reporter at MSNBC and NBC News, with his print commentary and reporting appearing in publications including the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Before his career in journalism, he served as a State Department official in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.” Farrow has been named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People and one of GQ's Men of the Year. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and a member of the New York Bar. He recently completed a Ph.D. in political science at Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He lives in New York.

 

The 2019 IRE Conference begins Thursday. Below you'll find some information to help you prepare for the conference!

For up-to-date information about panels, speakers and special events at the conference, please visit our conference website. Thank you to our co-hosts and sponsors for supporting IRE19!

Hotel Information

The conference is taking place at the Marriott Marquis Houston, 1777 Walker Street, Houston, TX 77010.

Registration

Registration opens at 3 p.m. (closing at 6 p.m.) on Wednesday and will be available Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Texas Foyer located on level 4 of the Marriott Marquis Houston. Be sure to bring photo identification when picking up your name badge.

Weather

It's going to be a typical June in Houston: warm and rainy. See the 10-day forecast.

Conference Wifi

Wireless internet is provided to all conference attendees. Thanks to Gray Television for sponsoring the wireless internet this year.
Network/SSID: IRE_Conference
Password: GrayTV1

Have a question or need help in a session?

Room monitors will be stationed in the hallways during sessions and will be happy to answer your questions.

IRE Conference app

(Thanks to Advance Local for sponsoring the mobile app this year)
We're giving you several ways to track the full schedule of panels, hands-on classes and special events with accurate, up-to-the-minute details:

Broadcast Show & Tell and one-on-one mentoring

Show & Tell sessions allow you to share your investigations with colleagues from around the country. Veteran broadcasters will moderate each session. Each slot runs for 15 minutes. One-on-one mentoring sessions will also be available during the conference with Al Tompkins, Barry Nash and Company, and Maria Mercader. Learn more and sign-up for any of these broadcast options here.

Twitter

Tweeting from the conference? Use #IRE19 to follow the action.

IRE Special Events, Partner Events, Exhibitors and Recruiters

Be sure to check out the list of IRE special events and partner events taking place this week. And take a moment to stop by Texas Foyer on level 4 to see the exhibitors and recruiters taking part in the conference.

Updated IRE Principles (Code of Conduct)

Investigative Reporters & Editors is committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of race, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, appearance or religion.

IRE supports vigorous debate and welcomes disagreement, while maintaining a civil and respectful community. Discriminatory or harassing behavior is not permitted.

IRE may take any action it deems appropriate to deal with those who violate our principles, including exclusion from our events, forums, listservs and the organization itself.

This code of conduct covers all participants in IRE events and is in effect the entire time from the beginning until the end of our conferences.

If you feel threatened or in immediate jeopardy during an IRE event, you should call building security by calling 0 from a house phone, or local police by dialing 911.

During the scheduled program, concerns can be brought to the attention of IRE staff or board members in person. Staff members will have red ribbons on their name badges, and board members will have blue ribbons. To report a possible violation, email conduct@ire.org.

The 2019 IRE Conference app is now available through Guidebook!

We encourage you to download our mobile guide to enhance your experience in Houston. You’ll be able to plan your day with a personalized schedule, browse maps and connect with other attendees.

The app is free and compatible with iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and Android devices.

To get the guide, choose one of the methods below:

 

WHERE TO EAT

Best bets for a nice meal closest to the conference…

XOCHI: James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega’s Oaxacan restaurant is a jewel in the city’s crown. Elemental mole sauces form the backbone of the menu; to taste them all, scooping with the house-ground corn tortillas, is to grasp Xochi’s singular greatness — and the power of the interior Mexican cuisine that has helped shape the Houston palate. There’s more, of course: fresh handmade cheeses; subtly textured masa snacks; a skillful bar specializing in agave spirits; Ruben Ortega’s surprising desserts; a piquant dried insect or two. Plus stirring applications of those fundamental moles to meats, fowl, shellfish and vegetables. 1777 Walker (inside the Marriott Marquis), 713-400-3330; xochihouston.com

KULTURE: Chef Dawn Burrell rethinks foods of the African diaspora in this dramatic, glass-walled space on a prime corner of Avenida Houston. Kulture is the brainchild of Marcus Davis, owner of the much-loved Midtown soul food hangout, The Breakfast Klub (if you fancy the fried chicken and waffles there, be prepared to wait in line). But downtown, with vintage Michael Jackson on the sound system, soulful turns delicate and detailed in the hands of former Olympic long-jumper Burrell. Her fried okra pods are as fluffed and airy as tempura. Her creamy collard dip seems made for the little rice fritters known as calas. And her blackened cabbage wedge with bacon vinaigrette and onion soubise is pure genius. To go along: strong and sweet cocktails and South African wines. 701 Avenida de las Americas; 713-357-9697; facebook.com/KultureHouston

For cheap and cheerful Vietnamese…

HUYNH: A beloved, homespun Vietnamese spot in a strip mall a few blocks east of the convention center. Major bang for buck – must orders include stunning chargrilled pork soft rolls; piquant yellow coconut curry with tofu, hot chiles and lemongrass (Dau Hu Xào Xa Ót); pulled duck and cabbage salad (seriously, do not miss this); and flash-fried Phoenix chicken with rice and a frizzly fried egg. Note: It’s BYOB. 912 St. Emanuel, 713-224-8964; huynhrestauranthouston.com

For classic Houston Tex-Mex…

ORIGINAL NINFA’S ON NAVIGATION: As the name implies, this is where it all started. If you believe the legend, Mama Ninfa was (is) the patron saint of Tex-Mex. In her once tiny kitchen, she helped popularize fajitas. The margaritas here have life giving powers. Overall, this Ninfa’s is the gold standard for our many temples of Tex-Mex; expect a crowd, and groups should call ahead. 2704 Navigation; 713-228-1175; ninfas.com

EL TIEMPO CANTINA: The expensive chow at El Tiempo, founded by the descendants of Mama Ninfa, is outstanding — deliciously charred fajitas, pillowy flour tacos, amazing salsas. The margaritas are strong and tasty, a rare combination. 2814 Navigation; 713-222-6800; eltiempocantina.com

IRMA’S ORIGINAL: Owner Irma Galvan’s original customers were courthouse employees, judges, attorneys and sheriff’s department — all have remained loyal to her homespun comida: enchiladas, chile rellenos, carnitas, carne guisada and tamales. As downtown grew, so did Irma’s reputation, solidified by a James Beard Foundation award as an America’s Classic restaurant. Her son’s restaurant, Irma’s Southwest (1475 Texas), is also quite good. 22 N. Chenevert; 713-222-0767; irmasoriginal.com

PAPPASITO’S CANTINA: The Pappas family’s Tex-Mex standby still rules. Besides the best queso in town, try the high-quality fajitas or well-made fish tacos. More than a dozen Houston-area locations, including one at the Hilton downtown, which fills up fast if there’s a concert at neighboring Toyota Center. 1600 Lamar pappasitos.com

For (arguably) the city’s best breakfast tacos…

VILLA ARCOS: This small, scarlet-painted shack serves stupendous breakfast tacos on house-made flour tortillas. Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook day dreams about the sprawling Bacon Super Taco, or the simple and sublime Veila's Burrito, with its cargo of chile and refried beans. (Yes, you want onions on that.) The rich sense of East End history, politics and community animates the modest dining room, founded by the late Yolanda Black Navarro in 1977. Order at the window, grab a Mexican Coke, and survey the memorabilia while you wait for your food — and remember that the lesser-known lunch plates are a primal Tex-Mex experience, too. 3009 Navigation; 713-826-1099; originalvillaarcos.com

For a great hamburger…

HUBCAP GRILL: Consistently one of the city’s best burgers. The patties are shaped by hand from fresh beef. The condiments are neither skimpy nor overloaded. The ambience is trailerlicious. 1111 Prairie, 713-223-5885; hubcapgrill.com

For reasonably priced South American food…

ANDES CAFÉ: Talented Ecuadoran chef David Guerrero’s scrappy restaurant in the near East End is a favorite for its raffish, charming décor and its lively, reasonably priced pan-South American menu. From lush, tropical smoothies to finely etched ceviches to deep-fried guinea pig, this kitchen shows remarkable range. 2311 Canal, Suite 104; 832-659-0063; andescafe.com

Where the cool kids eat…

NANCY’S HUSTLE: This unassuming, critically-acclaimed, hip neighborhood bistro feels exactly right, from the vintage R&B on its reel-to-reel tape system to the warmth of the staff to the tightly edited menu of rustic Franco-American fare, goosed with a Mediterranean tingle. Even the salads sparkle with their laser-cut herbs and bright dressings. So does the sourdough bread service. (It’s worth the 5 bucks.) You can graze happily, tackle a serious dinner or sneak in late for a bite at the long, hospitable counter. Reservations recommended. 2704 Polk; 346-571-7931; nancyshustle.com

For grab-and-go grub…

PHOENECIA: This easily walkable, two-level Mediterranean grocer/market has delicious grab-and-go food, a salad bar, and makes pita fresh daily. There’s a café/bar on-site, too. 1001 Austin; 832-360-2222; phoeneciafoods.com

For a wide array of options in one fell swoop…

FOOD HALLS: The food hall trend has finally hit Houston, and there are a two to try downtown with more on the way. Finn Hall, built out in a stunning art deco building, has 10 different vendors (including acclaimed Mala Sichuan Bistro) and an upstairs cocktail bar. The below-ground Conservatory has a beer bar, barbecue, pizza and sushi options, and it’s open till the wee hours on weekends. Be warned that both get super busy with office workers during peak lunch hours. Finn Hall, 710 Main; finnhallhtx.com. Conservatory, 1010 Prairie; conservatoryhtx.com

If you’re feeling fancy and flush…

POTENTE: Astros owner Jim Crane’s luxe Italian spot next to the ballpark could have been just another vanity restaurant. Instead, under chef Danny Trace, it’s home to some very personal Creole Italian food that draws on Trace’s Louisiana and Italian family roots. The pastas are thoughtful, and even such basics as veal and lamb chops are beautifully done. A serious Italian-skewed wine list adds to the fun, as does the chance to spot local and visiting sports stars. The relaxed dress code relaxes even further before an Astros home game. (Next door, Osso & Kristalla, the casual sister restaurant, offers similarly kicky flavors at less cost.) 1515 Texas, 713-237-1515; potentehouston.com

And you want a Texas-size steak….

PAPPAS BROS. STEAKHOUSE: In dining rooms as plush and gleaming as a vintage railway car, big men partake of big dry-aged steaks and big-ticket wines that include interesting premium choices by the glass. The Pappas family is based in Houston, and most everything they do is tip-top notch. 1200 McKinney, 713-658-1995; pappasbros.com

VIC & ANTHONY’S: Steaks, sides that could feed a family and the best calamari on the planet are served at Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta’s Astros ballpark-adjacent steakhouse. Also on the menu: seafood towers, caviar, lobsters, chophouse classics and Prime and Wagyu steaks. No hats, shorts or flip flops allowed. 1510 Texas, 713-228-1111; vicandanthonys.com

If you’re craving great Texas barbecue … you’ll have to take an Uber. Here are a few of the closest spots we recommend:

TRUTH BBQ: The cult favorite from Brenham – about 90 minutes away, Texas Monthly ranked it as the No. 10 best barbecue joint in the entire state – opened a second location in Houston this past January. A line starts forming before the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. Stellar ‘cue, including jaw-droppingly good pork ribs, subtly smoky brisket, tater tot casserole and perfect three-layer cakes, is available till 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday or until they sell out. 110 S. Heights Blvd.; 832-835-0001; truthbbq.com

PINKERTON’S BARBECUE: Grant Pinkerton is making a splash in the Heights with his emphatically Central Texas style ’cue — colossal beef ribs, almost 2 pounds per bone, have a deliciously charred and crusty bark seasoned with salt and coarse ground pepper. Sides, including smoked duck jambalaya and a crisp coleslaw, are all made in-house. Also on offer: craft cocktails and a list of wines meant to be paired with barbecue. 1504 Airline; 713-802-2000; pinkertonsbarbecue.com

THE PIT ROOM: The three types of handmade sausage at this Montrose joint may be the best in Houston: all-beef sausage loaded with mustard seeds and other spices; pork sausage with chunks of fresh jalapeño and melty cheese; and dense, smoky and peppery venison sausage. Thoughtful sides and condiments, as well as tacos with flour tortillas made in-house using fat collected from brisket trimmings. 1201 Richmond, 281-888-1929; thepitroombbq.com

RAY’S BBQ SHACK: The Third Ward barbecue staple has moved from its gas-station digs to sleek new quarters. There’s a tap wall, a convenient counter for solo diners and plenty of shiny galvanized aluminum. Plenty of Southeast Texas-style barbecue, too, including meaty little old-school rib tips in a sandwich (all of the sandwiches are good!); spicy, house-ground beef links; smoked boudin; fried corn on the cob; and glorious pit-smoked mac and cheese. It’s a lively community center where the food has an admirable sense of place, right down to the superior fried catfish, Friday gumbo specials or Thursday’s mighty smoked oxtails. 3929 Old Spanish Trail; 713-748-4227; raysbbqshack.com

Looking for more restaurant recommendations? Check out Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook’s 2018 Top 100 Restaurants list at houstonchronicle.com/top100, and her list of the city’s best new restaurants at bit.ly/2YELOz5.


WHERE TO DRINK

THE PASTRY WAR: Named for a three-month skirmish in 1838 between Mexico and France, this bar specializes in mezcal, tequila and sotol. Fun décor, impeccable margaritas and delicious tamales further the appeal. 310 Main, 713-226-7770; thepastrywar.com

TONGUE-CUT SPARROW: This 25-seat formal cocktail bar, hidden in a clubby lair above the Pastry War, might be the city’s most intimate place for well-crafted classic cocktails. Reservations accepted. 310 Main, 713-321-8242; tonguecutsparrow.com

DEAN’S DOWNTOWN: Housed in a former clothing store (the remnants of which remain in the windows), this lounge-y watering hole has a cool vibe with eclectic vintage furniture and unfussy cocktails. Live or DJ music often. 316 Main; 832-564-0918; deansdowntown.com

LA CARAFE: One of the oldest bars in one of Houston’s oldest buildings (rumored to be haunted) on historic Market Square. It’s an atmospheric, narrow, candle-lit lair with a classic juke box. On offer: wine by the glass and bottle, and beer in icy mugs. Cash only, but there’s an ATM in the corner. 813 Congress; 713-229-9399

TRUCK YARD: Every day’s a carnival at this Dallas import in EaDo. A huge, rambling indoor/outdoor playground where food trucks park and young things work their way through a smart beer menu as well as craft draft cocktails, frozen cocktails and wine on tap. 2118 Lamar, 713-855-9666; truckyardhouston.com

THE COTTONMOUTH CLUB: First-rate craft cocktails without pretension set to a soundtrack grounded in New York’s downtown scene circa 1970s. Bartenders here make a mean Old Fashioned. 108 Main, cottonmouthhouston.com

RESERVE 101: Love whiskey? This bar offers more than 100, and the bartenders are well versed in the traits and histories of every bottle. Located near Discovery Green, House of Blues and Toyota Center, it draws a diverse crowd. Another great option if you love whiskey AND interesting, well-chosen wine: Public Services Wine & Whisky (202 Travis). 1201 Caroline, 713-655-7101; reserve101.com

THE RUSTIC: An enormous backyard bar and live-music venue that feels distinctly Texas with its chow (queso, deviled eggs, tamales, burgers and tacos) and hooch (bottle, can and draft beers, frozen drinks and cocktails). Live music nightly under the starry skies. 1836 Polk, 832-321-7799; therustic.com

FLYING SAUCER DRAUGHT EMPORIUM: It’s worth a visit just to see this gastropub’s lengthy tap wall — draft beers that are listed along with dozens of bottle varieties in the “fly paper” on your table. Happy hour Monday through Friday means all draft beer is a buck off. Decent pub fare, too. 705 Main; 713-228-9472; beerknurd.com

OKRA CHARITY SALOON: With every drink purchase at this not-for-profit bar with an all-Houston beer list, patrons get a vote to cast on one of the month’s spotlight charities. At the end of the month, the charity with the most votes gets that month’s profits. Cool soaring space in a former jazz club. 924 Congress, 713-237-8828; friedokra.org

8TH WONDER BREWERY: Astrodome seats in the taproom, downtown views from the patio and an evolving lineup of beers — Weisstheimer, AstroTurf and Rocket Fuel, to name a few — all pay homage to our hometown. 2202 Dallas; 8thwonderbrew.com

SAINT ARNOLD BREWING CO.: Houston’s oldest craft brewery celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. It has a new outdoor beer garden and art-filled tasting room too, in which to toast with an Art Car IPA or the new dry cider. Fun for lunch. 2000 Lyons; saintarnold.com

TRUE ANOMALY BREWING: This new spot, owned by four NASA employees with a penchant for sour beers, just popped up in the city’s East End, offering a sparkling tap room and a growing list of beers to try. 2012 Dallas; trueanomalybrewing.com

A few other food and drink options worth an Uber:

Great craft cocktails

ANVIL BAR & REFUGE: Searching for some of the best cocktails in the country? And a list of more than 100 options? James Beard finalist Anvil expertly mixes the old-school way, with fresh ingredients and a dose of history. Just know that perfection takes time. 1424 Westheimer, 713-523-1622; anvilhouston.com

Great patio scene

BOHEME: The wine list at this popular Montrose spot isn’t vast, but it’s solid, affordable and thoughtful (we like a place with an albarino, vermentino and gruner veltliner by the glass). Plus, it has one of the city’s nicest patios (with misters), refreshing frozen cocktails and a loaded platter of French fries that must be seen to be believed. 307 Fairview, 713-529-1099; barboheme.com

Great for weekend brunch

CUCHARA: What’s not to love about this Montrose restaurant? There’s the kitchen that cooks with love and Mexican authenticity, the colorful murals that decorate the dining room and an adults-only vibe after dark. Everything is made in-house, including juices for its delicious cocktails. 214 Fairview, 713-942-0000; cuchararestaurant.com

Great wine bar

13 CELSIUS: Housed in a former 1920s dry-cleaners building, this comfortable Midtown wine bar offers a wide variety of unique wines by the bottle, glass and half glass. Also: artisan cheese and salumi boards, and a pretty courtyard. 3000 Caroline, 713-529-8466; 13celsius.com

Great dining exploration if you’re willing to travel…

CHINATOWN: In southwest Houston, about 20-25 minutes’ drive or ride (with no traffic), Houston’s Chinatown is home to a seemingly endless amount of delicious Asian restaurants, most mom and pops. Although it would take you months to get through them all, a few recommendations: Cajun Kitchen or Crawfish & Noodles for the oh-so-Houston Viet-Cajun mash-up; Hai Cang Seafood for an epic live-tank seafood feed with a group; Banana Leaf for Malaysian cuisine; Golden Dim Sum for dim sum; Nam Giao for incredible (and wallet friendly!) Vietnamese; Pho Binh or Pho Ga Dong Nai for pho; FuFu Café or San Dong for dumplings; and on and on…


ART & CULTURE

Note: You can catch the MetroRail red line from Main Street downtown to access some of these spots as well as a handful of other “Museum District” institutions. Check houmuse.org for more information.

THE MENIL COLLECTION: A pilgrimage site for artists from around the world, tucked into a leafy pocket of the Montrose neighborhood. Architecturally marvelous (it was Renzo Piano’s first project in America), the museum houses the permanent collection of John and Dominique de Menil, including art from antiquity, the Byzantine world, tribal cultures and the 20th century. 1533 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400; menil.org. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Free.

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON: The permanent collection here spans 6,000 years of history. Through June 27, “Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art” follows Van Gogh through key career stages, from early sketches to final paintings. Through Sept. 8, “Between Play and Grief: Selections From the Latino American Collection” works purchased by MFAH in the past decade. May 24-Sept. 15, “William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects,” interactive installation featuring “City of Abstracts,” “Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 2” and “Towards the Diagnostic Gaze.” 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300; mfah.org. $17 adults, $14 seniors. Free general admission Thursdays.

HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE: Exhibits of dinosaurs, amber gems and rare fossils, Burke Baker Planetarium, IMAX, butterfly garden and more. 5555 Hermann Park Drive, 713-639-4629; hmns.org. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sun. $25 adults; $15 children, seniors and college students; free 2-5 p.m. Thurs.

CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM HOUSTON: Cutting-edge international, national and regional art. 5216 Montrose, 713-284-8250; camh.org. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tues.-Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thurs., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun., closed Mon. Free.

ASIA SOCIETY TEXAS CENTER: Art exhibits, performances and programs related to all Asian cultures. Through Aug. 18, “Site Lines: Artists Working in Texas.” Through July 21, “Super Sarap,” video, sculpture and photography inspired by Filipino food. 1370 Southmore; 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sun.; $8; $5 seniors.

PROJECT ROW HOUSES: Historical preservation meets art and community at a cluster of Third Ward shotgun houses with rotating installations by artists. 2521 Holman, 713-526-7662; projectrowhouses.org. Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Free.

STATION MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART: Boundary-pushing art reflecting the cultural diversity of Houston. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900; stationmuseum.com. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Free.

ORANGE SHOW CENTER FOR VISIONARY ART: A whimsical folk-art monument, a maze of mosaics, statues and silliness. 2402 Munger, 713-926-6368; orangeshow.org. Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun. between Memorial Day and Labor Day. $5 adults.

HOUSTON MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE: Art exhibits, film screenings and educational programs. Through June 29, “3 The Hard Way: Spencer Evans, Vitus Shell and Anthony Suber.” Through July 6, “Brionya James: That’s All She Wrote.” 4807 Caroline, 713-526-1015; hmaac.org. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs.

ART CAR MUSEUM: A Houston classic merging cars and modern art. 140 Heights, 713-861-5526; artcarmuseum.com. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Free.

Pelin Ünker

A Turkish investigative journalist, sentenced to prison for her truthful reporting on offshore investments by the country’s former prime minister, is the 2019 recipient of the Don Bolles Medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Pelin Ünker was sentenced in January to 13 months for “defamation and insult” of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his two sons. An appeals court dismissed the prison term in April, but upheld a fine against Ünker.

“With authoritarian governments around the globe increasingly attempting to suppress the truth with threats of imprisonment, IRE stands with Pelin and other Turkish journalists in declaring that journalism should never be a crime,” said IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson.

The Don Bolles Medal, which will be awarded during the annual IRE Conference later this month in Houston, recognizes investigative journalists who have exhibited extraordinary courage in standing up against intimidation or efforts to suppress the truth about matters of public importance.

Ünker, a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, used the Paradise Papers trove of documents to report that Yildirim’s sons held shares in offshore shipping companies set up in Malta. Ünker reported that one company shared an address with a Turkish business that won a $7 million research and shipping-related tender from the Turkish government.

Yildirim, who later became speaker of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly, reportedly did not deny the facts of Ünker’s stories that were published in Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s oldest newspapers.

“Pelin has stared down intimidation from some of her country’s most powerful people and her commitment to telling stories of public interest, despite such pressure, deserves to be celebrated and honored," said Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. “Her dignity and professionalism is an example to journalists around the world.”

Turkey has engaged in an unprecedented crackdown on freedom of the press since a July 2016 coup attempt. More than 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree, and there are more than 100 journalists in prison there, more than any other country in the world, according to PEN America.

“Pelin and her colleagues remind us that courageous investigative journalists are needed around the globe to shine the light on those places where corruption flourishes,” Thompson said.

Formed in 1975, IRE is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting around the globe.

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, an Arizona Republic investigative reporter who was killed by a car bomb in 1976. 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: Even if you kill a reporter, you can’t kill the story.

Jill Geisler

Jill Geisler, a prominent national expert on newsroom leadership, will be a featured speaker during two sessions at the 2019 IRE Conference in Houston.

Geisler, an internationally known management consultant, author and former TV journalist, holds the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago. She also is the Freedom Forum Institute Fellow in Women’s Leadership.

Geisler is the author of Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, a popular book for managers in any field. She wrote the book as an extension of a column and podcast that she produced over several years. Her podcasts have been downloaded more than 13 million times. For 16 years, she worked on the faculty at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, she spent 25 years at WITI-TV in Milwaukee in several roles: reporter, anchor and ultimately vice president for news.

She will be featured in two sessions:


Browse the IRE19 schedule

We're offering more than 200 panels, hands-on classes and special presentations. Learn how to improve reporting and storytelling across all platforms.

“Investigating Trumpworld” will be the featured Showcase Panel on Friday, June 14, at the 2019 IRE Conference in Houston.

The fast-paced panel brings together award-winning journalists from print, radio and TV to offer behind-the-scenes stories and advice about some of the biggest investigations during the Trump Administration. Pierre Thomas of ABC News will moderate the panel, which includes:

The panel will shed light on key documents and data that can help journalists in any community investigate wealthy individuals, companies and foundations. The journalists also will offer advice on developing sources to help you navigate through sticky financial wickets. They’ll also talk about how to deal effectively with pushback and attacks on your work from powerful people — even the president.


Browse the IRE19 schedule

We're offering more than 200 panels, hands-on classes and special presentations. Learn how to improve reporting and storytelling across all platforms.

Signups are now open for the mentorship networking program at the 2019 IRE Conference in Houston.

We're making some changes this year to response to high demand: Rather than matching each participant with a single mentor, mentees will instead have the opportunity to talk with several prospective mentors at tables arranged by topic. This setup will allow more people to participate and encourage more networking among the group.

For mentors, this means you'll pick one area of expertise (FOI, data, management/career, etc.) to discuss with multiple participants. Mentees who are looking for help and advice on certain topics will be able to meet with different mentors. Connections made during the mentoring breakfast can grow and develop organically long after the conference.

The mentorship networking breakfast — co-sponsored by George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs and the Scripps Howard Foundation — will be held from 7:45 - 8:45 a.m. on Friday, June 14, in the Texas E room of the conference hotel.

Click here to sign up. Space is limited in this popular program. IRE will accept applications until Friday, May 24. You must register for the conference in order to participate.

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