The IRE Mentorship Program


IRE organizes a mentorship progam each year for people who attend our annual IRE and CAR conferences. Interested in applying? Here’s what you need to know.

The basics

The relationship should be mentor-led but mentee-driven: The mentor guides the relationship, but it’s up to the mentee to keep the train rolling, so to speak.

Work together to set clear, realistic goals and expectations early on. Some good questions to start the conversation: What are your goals? How can I help you stay accountable? Are there specific skills you’d like to learn? What are some projects you’d like to work on? What’s blocking your progress?

Mentors and mentees will meet in person at least once during the conference, and we strongly encourage participants to schedule regular check-ins afterward — by phone, email, Slack, whatever works — to discuss progress and work through roadblocks. Just come up with a schedule that suits you both and stick to it.

IRE’s mentorship programs are for building skills, not advancing careers. Participants should focus on working through reporting problems rather than networking or job-seeking.

Discussions between mentors and mentees should be confidential unless both parties agree otherwise.

Tips for mentors

  • Listen actively. Your role is to help your mentee define and achieve their goals, not to dictate them.
  • Keep the war stories to a minimum. Career anecdotes can be useful to illustrate a point, but you’re not there to impress anyone.
  • Be proactive. Sometimes, your mentee will be hesitant to “bother” you with “minor” questions. Check in with them regularly: How are you coming along on your project? Is there anything I can help you with? Etc. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage your mentor to contact you if they need help.
  • Meet them where they are. Mentees come to this program with varying degrees of experience and knowledge. Set realistic expectations and work with them at their level.
  • You’re not a therapist. Keep the focus on work problems, not life problems.

Tips for mentees

  • Respect your mentor’s time, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your mentor wants to help you succeed! In addition to regular check-ins, you should feel comfortable reaching out to your mentor to ask for help on specific problems as they arise.
  • Don’t expect your mentor to write your story/pitch your editor/file your FOIA. Your mentor is there to help guide your work, not do it for you.
  • Expect to be challenged. The goal of this program is to help you learn and grow as a journalist. This will mean stretching your wings a little.

Conduct yourself professionally

Participants must adhere to the IRE Principles:

Investigative Reporters & Editors is committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, appearance or religion.

IRE supports vigorous debate and welcomes disagreement, while maintaining a civil and respectful community.

IRE may take any action it deems appropriate to deal with those who violate our principles, including exclusion from our events, forums, listservs and the organization itself.

Anyone who feels threatened or in immediate jeopardy during an IRE event should call building security in the venue or local police by dialing 911.

Additional concerns can be brought to the attention of IRE staff or board members in person. Contact information for both staff and board members can also be found on IRE’s website.

Further reading