2017 Portland (ME) Watchdog Workshop

Hosted by: The Portland Press Herald

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, October 14.

Expected speakers include Doug Haddix of IRE/NICAR; Sharon Machlis of International Data Group; Mike Rezendes of The Boston Globe; Sigmund Schutz of PretiFlaherty; Julian Sher of the fifth estate - CBC TV; and Cheryl W. Thompson of The George Washington University.

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 (THIS SESSION IS FULL)

Sunday, October 15, 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Sunday’s hands-on training will take place at Southern Maine Community College, Ross Technology Center, Room 202, 2 Fort Road, South Portland, Maine.

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.


There is free parking outside of the building.

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 Portland Watchdog Workshop.

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

Cancellations must be sent via email to Dylan Sinn, dylan@ire.org.  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.

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.

Time and place

Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 - Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017

Portland Press Herald
295 Gannett Drive
South Portland, Maine 04106

Registration information

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

Hurry! Registration closes on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 9:00am.

Schedule details

  • Panel

    Welcome and overview

    Speaker: Doug Haddix of IRE and NICAR

    See printed schedule for room information

    9:00 am - 9:15 am

  • Panel

    Mastering the investigative interview

    Speaker: Julian Sher of Investigative Journalist

    In this session, learn how to think strategically and tactically about interviews to avoid basic mistakes. Rethink the way you approach interviews, master the basic rules of tough interviews -- and learn how to break them when needed.


    Gannett Hall

    9:15 am - 10:15 am

  • Panel

    Navigating FOI and open records laws

    Speaker: Sigmund Schutz of PretiFlaherty

    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.

    Gannett Hall

    10:15 am - 11:15 am

  • Panel

    The art of investigative storytelling

    Speaker: Julian Sher of Investigative Journalist

    With any good investigation, you have to tell a story, not a scoop. Scoops are reported. Stories are told. This sessions tackles writing, character development and story structure for both print and broadcast so that you can turn your investigation into a great tale that will grip readers and viewers.

    Gannett Hall

    11:30 am - 12:30 pm

  • Outside Event

    See printed schedule for room information

    12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

  • Panel

    Cool tools and apps for watchdogs

    Speaker: Sharon Machlis of International Data Group

    So many digital apps and tools, so little time to figure out which ones are truly valuable. This session will filter out the noise and focus on proven tools for crunching data, visualizing information, and tracking your research and reporting.

    Gannett Hall

    2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

  • Panel

    Data and documents

    Speakers: Cheryl W. Thompson of NPR; Mike Rezendes of The Associated Press

    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.

    Gannett Hall

    3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

  • Panel

    Web and social media for watchdogs

    Speaker: Doug Haddix 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, social media tools, and other practical information you can use immediately to background sources and businesses.

    Gannett Hall

    4:15 pm - 5:15 pm

  • Panel

    Wrap-up, what IRE can do for you

    Speaker: Doug Haddix of IRE and NICAR

    See printed schedule for room information

    5:15 pm - 5:30 pm

  • Hands-on

    Optional computer-assisted reporting training

    Speakers: Doug Haddix of IRE and NICAR; Mark Walker of The New York Times

    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.

    Srn Maine Comm College, Ross Tech 202

    9:00 am - 12:30 pm