2017 Des Moines Watchdog Workshop

Hosted by: The Des Moines Register

IRE will offer several of its core sessions, designed to improve your ability to find information on the Web quickly, and point you to key documents and data that will help you add depth to your daily work and produce quick-hit enterprise stories. In addition, this workshop will give you tips on bulletproofing stories, digging deeper on the Web with social media, search engines and much more.

These sessions are designed for reporters, editors, and producers from small, midsize and large publications, TV, radio stations, Web-only news sites and news blogs. Freelancers, students and journalism educators are also encouraged to attend.

Join IRE's experienced trainers and a group of veteran reporters for our Watchdog Workshop Saturday, September 30.

Expected speakers include Steve Chamraz of WTMJ-Milwaukee; Randy Evans of Iowa Freedom of Information Council; Erin Jordan of The Gazette (Cedar Rapids); Sandhya Kambhampati of ProPublica Illinois; Denise Malan of IRE/NICAR; Barbara Rodriguez of The Associated Press; Lee Rood of The Des Moines Register and Matt Wynn of MedPage Today.

Get the tools and the tricks of the trade that you need to be a better, faster, watchdog journalist.

This program is made possible thanks to support from the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Optional Computer-Assisted Reporting Training

Sunday, October 1, 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Attend this hands-on workshop and learn how to use Excel, a powerful electronic spreadsheet for deadline and beat reporting on budgets, salaries, election data and more. Also, learn how to dig deeper using the Internet and find valuable datasets for your stories. Class size is limited; register early to reserve a seat on a first-come, first-served basis.


Parking is available on the street or in the 500 Grand Ave. parking garage. There is a small fee for the parking garage.

Workshop Fees (includes a one-year IRE membership, if you are a current IRE member, your membership will be extended by one year. Attendees must meet IRE membership terms)

$55 Professional

$25 Student

$30 Optional Computer-Assisted Reporting Training (hands-on)


If you are a current member, please complete your registration online by logging into your member profile. Once you have logged in, click on my profile, next to the welcome and your name. Once you are in the members-only side of the database, select conferences and events on the left-hand side of the screen under my profile, then select the 2017 Des Moines Watchdog Workshop.

If your membership has expired or you are not currently an IRE member, you can still register for the workshop online here

Workshop evaluations

Attendees can access the workshop evaluation online. We appreciate feedback from attendees as this allows us to improve the program and provide feedback to our funders.

Cancellations must be sent via email to Dylan Sinn, [email protected]  There is a $25 processing fee for professionals ($10 for students) for cancellations until the day before the event.  Refunds will not be given for cancellations on the day of, or after the event.

Time and place

Saturday, Sep. 30, 2017 - Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017

The Des Moines Register
400 Locust St.
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Registration information

Registration for this event is open! Click here to begin.

Hurry! Registration closes on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 9:00am.

Schedule details

  • Panel

    Welcome and workshop overview

    Speaker: Denise Malan of IRE and NICAR

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    9:00 am - 9:15 am

  • Panel

    Making the most of data and documents

    Speaker: Sandhya Kambhampati of Los Angeles Times

    Advice on developing a documents state of mind, navigating public records, understanding records retention schedules, exploring key records on a variety of beats, and becoming familiar with key national data sets to produce high-impact local stories.

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    9:15 am - 10:15 am

  • Panel

    FOI and open records

    Speakers: Erin Jordan of The Gazette (Cedar Rapids); Randy Evans of Iowa Freedom of Information Council

    Learn how to use federal and state open records laws to draft records requests the right way. We'll discuss ways to challenge denials and keep a steady flow of information coming into the newsroom with FOI.

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    10:15 am - 11:15 am

  • Panel

    Art of the interview

    Speakers: Steve Chamraz of WTMJ-Milwaukee; Barbara Rodriguez of The Des Moines Register

    Learn the best ways to approach sources, prepare for and handle the interview process, including tips and strategies for handing tough situations and ethical trouble spots.

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    11:30 am - 12:30 pm

  • Outside Event

    See printed schedule for room information

    12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

  • Panel

    Bulletproofing your reporting

    Speakers: Sandhya Kambhampati of Los Angeles Times; Matt Wynn of USA TODAY Network

    Strategies, tips and techniques for reporters, editors, producers and online staff to ensure accuracy.

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

  • Panel

    Daily watchdog

    Speaker: Lee Rood of The Des Moines Register

    Every reporter can be a watchdog reporter, no matter the beat. This session will cover how to integrate watchdog into your shift, with tips on time management and organization, plus examples of daily watchdog stories.

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

  • Panel

    Web search and social media for watchdogs

    Speaker: Denise Malan of IRE and NICAR

    Tips on more effective web searches, how to find reliable information on deadline and for enterprise stories. The latest search engines, data sites and other practical information you can use immediately to background sources and businesses.

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    4:15 pm - 5:15 pm

  • Panel

    Wrap up, what IRE can do for you

    Speaker: Denise Malan of IRE and NICAR

    Capital Square, Community Rm

    5:15 pm - 5:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Optional computer-assisted reporting training

    Speaker: Denise Malan of IRE and NICAR

    Attend this hands-on workshop and learn how to use Excel, a fairly simple but powerful spreadsheet application, to begin analyzing data for stories. We'll start from the beginning with basic formulas and work our way up to summarizing information using pivot tables and more. How do you think about data analysis as a journalist? How do you find the story within the columns and rows?

    Class size is limited; register early to reserve a seat on a first-come, first-served basis.

    NOTE: Registration is required for this session. Click here to sign up.

    Capital Square, GIADC Lrng Lab Rm. 404

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm