IRE members are amazing.
Last year, we launched an effort to help students get access to our resources and events through a Student Sponsorship Program. We knew that many of you were aware of either sharp journalism students, or programs that produce them, and we asked you to help by sponsoring memberships for those students. Nearly 100 of you took part, and the results have been spectacular. Today we're launching a second drive to bring in more of those young journalists. Our philosophy is that the sooner we can expose them to IRE and our members, the more likely they are to choose career paths that make them the next generation of investigative journalists.
So if you know of a student – or students – or of a school that produces great young journalists – please consider joining the sponsorship program. For only $25, you can give an IRE membership to someone – and quite literally change their lives.
If you decide to sponsor a student, please promote the program through social media. Use the hashtag #SponsorIRE and Tweet a link to our student member sponsor page. The tweets will be compiled on IRE's website.
We asked a handful of student sponsorship recipients to tell us how the donation made a difference in their careers. Here’s what Will Drabold, a student at Ohio University, had to say:
I'm now a junior at Ohio University, but I joined IRE during spring 2014 while I was interning at The Columbus Dispatch. While there, I got to know Jill Riepenhoff, now an IRE board member. Jill was a mentor for me at the Dispatch and kept pushing me to dig deeper in my stories. Eventually, she told me about IRE and her past involvement and it intrigued me. She bought me a membership and pushed me to apply to OU for funding to go to the conference in San Francisco. I got the money and went there with a fellow OU student.
The conference has changed my career path in two ways: it solidified my interest in deep-dive, investigative reporting and introduced me to a wealth of nationally-recognized journalists. The sessions were fascinating and I took notes constantly. But the biggest thing I took away from the workshops was the massive number of stories that are dying to be written but haven't been. I was actually in the middle of working on a several month project for the Dispatch about failed foster care adoptions in Ohio and had hit a road block before I went to the conference. Hearing from so many people who had been in the same position as me but had soldiered on was really encouraging and helped me punch through when I got back.
As for networking, I met top editors from newspapers of all shapes and sizes. I had one-on-one time with the editor of USA Today, the VP of Recruitment for Gannett and others. Most were impressed I was there before my junior year of college and that helped me build connections I've fostered since then. More specifically, I met Jim Neff, the investigations editor of the Seattle Times, while I was at the conference. When internship season started a few months later, I got back in touch with him. Long story short, I'll be working at the Times this summer on the I-team — literally a dream come true.
Far more student journalists need to get involved with IRE. If you love journalism, are ambitious — yet humble — and want to write the story no one else is, IRE will open doors for you to achieve your dreams.