Customized training

Get more bang for your limited training bucks by bringing IRE and NICAR to your newsroom. You decide what skills your staff needs to sharpen, and we put together a training schedule to help you reach your goals, from building a watchdog culture and researching on deadline to using databases effectively.

The training is affordable, with a proven track record of producing results. Our experience includes dozens of workshops each year in news organizations of all sizes and media platforms, including giants such as The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune and CBS News, and small, aggressive newsrooms including the Aberdeen (S.D.) American News, KTVU-Oakland and The York (Pa.) Dispatch.

Mix and match from a variety of options for reporters, editors and producers:

Hands-on data training:

  • Introduction to data journalism | An overview of the key analysis tools used to produce investigative stories (spreadsheets, databases, mapping, programming and statistical software), with examples of stories that were made possible with these tools.
  • Spreadsheets and databases | Use data software for better watchdog stories and beat coverage. We offer beginning, intermediate and advanced training in Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, SQLite and other data tools.
  • Visualizing data | Use free web tools such as Flourish, Datawrapper, Tableau Desktop and other software to produce interactive charts, graphics and maps, no programming required. We also offer more advanced sessions on writing code to create your own data visualizations.
  • Coding for data analysis | Advanced sessions that show how you can use computer programming to quickly and transparently analyze data, leaving you more time and energy for other reporting tasks. Training can be offered in R or Python.
  • Advanced coding to speed up your work | A series of sessions that helps you tackle the problems of data locked away on a website or in a PDF with web scraping, work with APIs to process data, speed up your analysis and share your work with your newsroom and the world. 
  • Cleaning up dirty data | We’ll show you techniques and tools for refining problematic data in a timely fashion instead of toiling away in your spreadsheets or databases. We offer cleaning sessions in OpenRefine, spreadsheets, SQL, Python and R.
  • Mapping analysis | An overview of data reporting with common mapping software like QGIS, which gives you the power to attach data to locations and tally things up within a given space.

Backgrounding, research and verification:

  • Tapping into social media | Making effective use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites for reporting and digging. How to connect with sources on social media, follow breaking news in real time, and track conversations and commentary in a specific geographic area.
  • Web search for watchdogs | Learn how to find reliable information on deadline and for enterprise stories using more effective search techniques, the latest search engines, data sites and other practical tools you can use immediately. We’ll also share a checklist your newsroom can customize to background all your sources, verifying their information and uncovering their online presence.
  • Backgrounding like a boss | How are you sure that great source with the perfect quote isn’t too good to be true? Even great reporters can get tricked by fake names or sketchy backgrounds. We’ll walk through some websites and strategies you can use to create a routine and spot potential red flags before you get burned.
  • Verifying information online | The internet is awash with misinformation, fake photos and videos, trolls, bots and other bad actors. As a journalist, you should be skeptical of everything. We’ll show you some tools and techniques to help you separate fact from fiction and track down the best information.

Using public records: 

  • Prying loose public records | A broad introduction to using open records laws at the federal and state levels, customized for your coverage area. We’ll give you a checklist of what to know before you make a request, including how to find out what records are available, what information is public or might be withheld, and where to send your requests. 
  • Writing public records requests | Specific tips on how to word requests for documents and data in order to get what you want, in a reasonable amount of time. Bring your ideas for requests to workshop with the group.
  • Finding and negotiating for data | Honing your research and public records skills specifically to finding databases quickly and techniques to negotiate with record keepers to get what you want.
  • Getting around roadblocks to information | Agencies will put up all kinds of roadblocks to your record requests, including technical questions, cost, dragging their feet or simply ignoring your request. We’ll discuss how to deal with each of these issues as they come up, and resources where you can find help.

Investigative reporting basics:

  • Using data and documents in your reporting | Advice on developing a documents state of mind, exploring key records on a variety of beats, and becoming familiar with key national data sets to produce high-impact local stories. We’ll share a checklist of key data and documents to request that can generate story ideas immediately.
  • Quick-hit investigations | Strategies, story ideas, resources and tips for watchdog stories on a variety of beats. How to produce meaty enterprise stories that take days or weeks rather than months.
  • Fostering a watchdog culture | A group exercise to identify your newsroom’s vision for watchdog journalism, the obstacles holding you back, ideas for producing more investigative work, and personal goals for each participant.
  • Storyboarding your work | A discussion of ways to produce high-quality investigative stories, with an emphasis on vetting ideas, having a fallback plan and keeping channels of communication open inside the newsroom. We’ll also look at a “litmus test” for whether a story is worth further investigation. 
  • Bulletproofing the story | Strategies, tips and techniques for reporters, editors, producers and online staff to ensure accuracy in watchdog stories that rely heavily on data and documents. 
  • Managing the investigation | This session examines the workflow of an investigative story and the investigative team functions along with tips to keep everyone organized and on track. We’ll discuss all the stages of investigative reporting, from vetting ideas to bulletproofing and publishing on multiple platforms.
  • Overcoming common roadblocks | Top 10 watchdog roadblocks and strategies to overcome them. 
  • Nailing the investigative interview | Learn proven strategies for managing the investigative interview, with tips on preparation, approaching difficult subjects and keeping the conversation on track.
  • Sourcing and building a beat: Own your beat by improving how you develop sources. Strategies to find sources off the beaten path, develop source relationships and handle tough situations.
  • The multiplatform investigation | How to make your stories and investigations pop on air, online and on mobile. 
  • Time-saving tools | Tips on time management, organization and daily watchdog stories.

Topic-specific training:

  • Investigating nonprofits | Nonprofit doesn’t mean no profit, and it helps to know how these organizations are operating in your area. This session will show you some ways to dig into nonprofits and charities, including red flags to keep an eye out for on tax documents.
  • Backgrounding businesses | A private business does create public information. This session will show you some ways to dig deeper into businesses. We’ll show you where to look and what records and data are available.
  • Breaking news investigations | How to build investigations off breaking news situations, data/docs to keep on hand, beating the competition.
  • Covering local elections | Data sources, campaign finance, backgrounding candidates, documents to request, using census to understand electorate, building your own databases of voting records, etc. 

Our fee structure

Our in-house training is tailored to fit your needs as well as your newsroom’s budget. Fees are based on organization size and set up as a daily rate. Discounts are available for multiple days of training. 

For detailed information, please contact IRE’s deputy executive director, Denise Malan, at or 479-422-2405.