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International networking in Baltimore

By Margo Smit

Though from a small country half a world away, I try to make IRE conferences a regular on my calendar. And after six conferences in the last seven years, I almost feel like a veteran here. "IRE is my family," said broadcast journalist Tisha Thompson at the IRE Awards luncheon. It feels a little like that for me too. Coming to these conferences has brought me so much — including a job. For two weeks, I have run the Dutch Flemish Association of Investigative Journalists (VVOJ) as their first paid director. Without IRE, there wouldn’t even be a VVOJ! Through IRE, I learned to cooperate on investigations across borders and media types. I met people from around the globe and knew where to find them once back home and in need of information they might have. My boss and colleagues, and ultimately my viewers (I was a TV reporter until two weeks ago) and the general public benefited with me.

So I had no problem answering keynote speaker Jon Klein’s question: "Why are you here?" I am here because there are few places in the world where you can actually see your international network explode in two days, and thus become a better journalist. As Brigitte After, one of my invaluable colleagues and friend that I met through IRE, said on a panel: "The things we investigate move across borders: money, businesses, crime, climate change. We as journalists cannot afford it to stay in one place!" Well, there might be one other place where this explosion can be experienced: at the upcoming Global Investigative Journalist Conference, April 2010, in Geneva. Something else that wouldn't be there without IRE, by the way!

Margo Smit is the director Dutch-Flemish Association of Investigative Journalists, VVOJ, www.vvoj.nl.

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