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Santa Fe paper focuses on watchdog work

Only a local news organization can hold institutions and individuals in a community accountable, so journalists need to be equipped for the job, says Rob Dean, managing editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

That’s why the newspaper sponsored custom IRE training for its staff in early February.

"In the last three days, I think we’ve gotten a set of skills that allows us not to be intimidated by the enormity of the project or the pressure of time," Dean said. "Using the tools of the information age, data that’s available, we can get deeply into a subject in a manageable amount of time to do more depth reporting on a more consistent basis."

Already, Dean is moving forward with plans for an intranet, where data and other resources will be available electronically for the staff, as well as follow-up spreadsheet training for interested journalists at a local community college.

"This training provides a spark of inspiration at a time when our newsroom needs it and our communities need it," Dean said.

The newspaper’s owner and publisher, Robin Martin (pictured above), has a vision of journalists across New Mexico working together on a major investigation. That’s one reason that the newspaper partnered with Associated Press Managing Editors to open part of the training to journalists across the state. More than 60 people attended the Saturday watchdog workshop, which attracted journalists from Albuquerque, Roswell, Taos and even Denver.

"I’m hoping at some point we can find an issue that all of us can look into and make a great impact on society," she said.

Martin herself took the IRE hands-on spreadsheet training and attended many of the presentations on topics ranging from cultivating a watchdog culture in the newsroom to finding data and documents for investigative stories.

The spreadsheet training will help her put together information about water rights — a topic ripe for an in-depth analysis in New Mexico. "I’ve been collecting legal ads for the last two years. They’re stacking up and stacking up, and I didn’t know how to sort them out."

Information about bringing training to your newsroom is available on the custom training page.

— Doug Haddix, IRE training director

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