NICAR20 Master Classes

Hone your writing, interviewing and editing skills with our NICAR Conference Master Classes. Veteran reporters and editors will share their tips and strategies during these half-day workshops. Space is limited for these small-group classes.

Register for these workshops when you complete your conference registration. Already registered for the conference and want to add a master class? Email for assistance.

Optional master classes cancellation policy
Cancellations must be sent via email to All cancellations must be in writing. There is a $15 processing fee for each class until Feb. 14. Refunds will not be given for cancellations after Feb. 14 due to the limited seating in these classes.

Waiting list policy
If a class fills up a waiting list will be created. Available seats will be filled from the waiting list until Friday, February 28. After that date, any available seats will be filled onsite, at the start of the class on a first come, first serve basis. Payment for the class will be collected onsite.

If you have any questions about registration or waiting lists, please email

Editing the data story

Thursday, March 5, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructors: Jennifer LaFleur, The Investigative Reporting Workshop; and Maud Beelman, the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University

Managing a data project presents challenges for any editor. No matter your comfort level with data, this half-day workshop will give you the foundation you need to help make sure your reporters aren’t running with scissors or spinning their wheels on data projects. Two veteran editors, Jennifer LaFleur of The Investigative Reporting Workshop and Maud Beelman of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University, will guide you through the ins and outs of data journalism from an editor’s point of view, including:

  • How to help reporters find focus for their data stories
  • Being skeptical of data and finding potential pitfalls
  • Verifying analyses and bulletproofing data stories and apps
  • Using data to find human sources and characters for stories
  • Planning the best data workflows for your newsroom

No data experience is necessary for this workshop. Editors/producers and those interested in newsroom management are welcome. Please bring your own laptop.

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.


Statistics for journalists

Thursday, March 5, 2:15 – 5:45 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructors: Steve Doig, Arizona State University; and Holly Hacker, The Dallas Morning News

Statistical methods can help you go beyond counting, sorting and filtering data to look at relationships, make predictions and level the playing fields. Statistical analyses can provide hard evidence to back up (or discredit) a theory. This master class will help you understand the concepts and methods most often used by journalists, including:

  • Linear regression
  • Correlation
  • Statistical significance
  • Describing and visualizing your data

This master class is aimed at those already familiar with basic data analysis using spreadsheets and ready to add statistical analysis to their toolkits.

Please bring your laptop to the training. Before the conference, please install R and R Studio (free, open-source software) on your computer.

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.


Election 2020 data

Friday, March 6, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructors: Carrie Levine, Center for Public Integrity; and Derek Willis, ProPublica

This year brings important elections from local school boards to statehouses and the White House. This class, taught by two veteran political reporters, will help you gear up for Election 2020 coverage at any level of government, including:

  • Tools and strategies for campaign finance data, from local to federal candidates
  • Following the money and the messaging from campaigns
  • Tracking the players beyond candidates, from super PACs to special interests and nonprofits
  • Story ideas to help you plan election coverage for your newsroom

No previous data experience is necessary for this workshop, though familiarity with spreadsheets will help. Please bring your own laptop.

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.


Writing the investigative narrative

Friday, March 6, 2:15 – 5:45 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructor: Maria Carrillo, Tampa Bay Times

You’ve gathered data, docs and human sources. Now it’s time to turn your reporting into a story — or a series — that packs a punch. If you’re new to investigative storytelling or want to up your writing game, this workshop is for you.

Veteran editor Maria Carrillo has led some of the best narrative teams in the country. In this half-day workshop, she’ll cover the entire story lifecycle, from reporting to writing to planning for publication. Topics include:

  • Understanding narrative
  • Reporting for story — How to gather the details and scenes that will give your piece emotional power
  • Focus and framing – Finding your way through all that material
  • Self-editing tips and techniques
  • Developing a story team — How to get photographers, artists, designers, digital producers and editors unified behind a common vision

We’ll look at examples of successful stories, pulling back the curtain to see how they came together.

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.


Finding and telling stories with earth imagery

Saturday, March 7, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructor: Tim Wallace, Descartes Labs

Satellites, planes, drones — thanks to these and other planetary-sensors, we know more about our earth, its oceans, landscapes and cityscapes than ever before. With heaps of new data and tools at our disposal, journalists are among the many people accessing this wellspring of source data and using it to show changes at global and local scales at an ever-increasing rate, from the disappearing polar ice caps to monitoring local port shipments.

This workshop will provide an introduction to practical geographic journalism through concrete case studies. It will then offer tools and skills that can help you start infusing earth imagery into your stories. You will leave this workshop with a new way of thinking about earth imagery and how to use it.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites but it would be helpful to have some experience with QGIS, bash (imagemagick, ffmpeg, gdal), and Photoshop.

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.



Saturday, March 7, 2:15 – 5:45 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructors: Monica Rhor, Houston Chronicle; and Audra Burch, The New York Times

Learn how to master the interview to hold your sources accountable. This workshop will move from getting the interview, to conducting the interview, to capitalizing on the interview when it’s time to write.

This master class by investigative reporters Monica Rhor and Audra Burch is designed to teach you:

  • How — and when — to land a tough interview
  • How to prepare before an interview and also adapt on the spot
  • The power of silence
  • The power of sincerity
  • Interviewing people who have been hurt, and interviewing the people who hurt them

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.


Getting ready to cover Census 2020

Sunday, March 8, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Price: $35

Room: Galerie 5 (2nd floor)

Instructors: D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research; and Paul Overberg, The Wall Street Journal

The 2020 census has already begun. In mid-March, it ramps up with a blizzard of millions of mailed invitations to respond. The data and story possibilities will follow almost immediately and continue through at least 2022. Are you ready? Especially if you have not covered a census, this workshop will prepare you to make a plan, gather the data, understand it and turn it into compelling stories.

D’Vera Cohn and Paul Overberg have each been writing about the census since 1990. Dee, who covered census topics for The Washington Post before working for Pew Research, led five Poynter Institute 2020 census workshops for journalists over the past year. Paul led IRE-sponsored census training workshops and panels since 2000, and covered demographics for USA Today and The Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years.

This three-hour workshop will include:

  • What numbers are coming when?
  • Census-speak: Concepts and definitions to unlock the data and avoid newbie errors
  • Geography: Understanding the “where” to find stories from neighborhood to national
  • Seven stories any newsroom can do
  • Examples of great 2010 census stories
  • How census numbers can be used on every beat
  • Making a newsroom plan: How to pick your spots and get outside help too

Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.