"Ongoing investigation": Tricks to getting around tough PIOs

  • Event: 2017 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: Brian Collister of Investigative Network; Wendy Halloran of independent journalist; Katie Townsend of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Date/Time: Friday, Jun. 23 at 3:45pm
  • Location: Grand Canyon 7
  • Audio file: Only members can listen to conference audio

If you've found yourself struggling to get cooperation from a public information officer, you’re not alone. The PIO is often the gatekeeper to interviews and information, tasked with gathering, verifying, coordinating and disseminating public information. But often they become the biggest roadblock we encounter as investigative reporters. So, how can you successfully deal with a PIO who acts like their job is to protect and deflect? Some will refuse to talk, demand you only interview them instead of decision-makers or drag their feet in hopes you’ll go away. Well, we’ve got strategies to help you battle back against those who become a “Public Interference Officer”. This panel will offer useful tips and tricks you can use to make sure you can plow past any PIO.

Speaker Bios

  • Brian Collister is an award-winning investigative reporter and creator of the Investigative Network. He specialized in uncovering fraud, corruption and government waste. His investigations have resulted in the criminal convictions of public officials, passage of new laws and embezzled public funds being returned to taxpayers.

  • Wendy Halloran's dogged investigative reporting has led to criminal convictions, overturned a 1.6 million dollar civil trial jury verdict, focused heavily on police misconduct and wrongfully accused and convicted cases. She's been recognized nationally with the 2015 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia award, 2017 National Headliner award, 2016 National Headliner award, 2015 National Headliner award, IRE finalist award, regional Edward R. Murrow award, multiple Emmy awards, AP awards, SPJ First Amendment award. In 2017, Halloran earned a Journalism Law School fellowship from Loyola Law School. @wendy_halloran

  • Katie Townsend (@katie_rcfp) is the Legal Director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (www.rcfp.org), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.  She oversees the litigation, amicus, and other legal work of Reporters Committee attorneys, and represents the Reporters Committee, news organizations, and individual journalists in court access, freedom of information, and other First Amendment and press freedom matters.

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