How to find the best investigative story ideas and pitch them successfully

  • Event: 2019 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: Ziva Branstetter of The Washington Post; Pat Beall of Gannett/USA TODAY Network; Cheryl W. Thompson of NPR
  • Date/Time: Friday, Jun. 14 at 9:00am
  • Location: Texas C
  • Audio file: No audio file available.

We'll discuss how to assess the potential of a story idea, how to choose which story ideas are likely to have the biggest impact, how to pre-report and write a story memo pitching the idea to your editors, and cover what distinguishes a good investigative story idea from other types of ideas. We’ll also discuss strategies for developing ideas, including alerts and other strategies to spot investigative ideas before your competition.

Speaker Bios

  • Pat Beall is Senior Investigative Reporter, Southeast, Gannett USA Today Network.  She has won multiple national, regional and state awards for stories on the opioid epidemic, criminal justice and her memoir of child abuse; most recently a 2018 Sigma Delta Chi Award, Non-Deadline Reporting and Second Place, 2019 National Headliner Awards, Investigative Reporting, for tracking the origins of the heroin epidemic to Florida drug policy.  She is host of the podcast “Dancing Oligarchs.”  @beall1.

  • Ziva leads a team at The Washington Post focused on business investigations and enterprise. She previously worked as a senior editor at Reveal and spent more than 20 years at the Tulsa World, where she and Cary Aspinwall were 2015 finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. That same year, they founded The Frontier, an independent investigative newsroom in Tulsa. Ziva is serving her third term as an IRE board member.

  • Cheryl W. Thompson is IRE board president and an investigative correspondent for NPR. Prior to joining NPR in January, she spent 22 years at The Washington Post. Her investigations include local political corruption, cops killed by guns, witnesses killed for cooperating with police, people who died after being Tasered by police, and the unsolved murders of six black girls nearly 50 years ago. Her awards include a shared Pulitzer, an Emmy, IRE and two NABJ awards. 

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