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VIDEO: How to go undercover on a budget

By Chhaya Nene

These days the phrase “on a budget” applies to everyone, especially journalists.  At the 2014 IRE Conference, veteran journalists Anna Hewson of KUSA/9News Denver, Joe Ellis of KXAN-Austin, Bryan Staples of WTVF-Nashville, and Steve Eckert of KARE 11 Minneapolis/St. Paul shared their best-kept secrets for going undercover without blowing the newsroom budget.

After the session, Bryan Staples shared his tips on thrifty undercover reporting. Watch the video embedded on the right.

Here are a few tips from the session:

Must-have equipment:

  • Purse cameras ($10 at Goodwill)
  • Button cameras ($149)
  • Pinhole cameras (black and white camera approximately $90)
  • GoPro Cameras ($199 at Walmart)
  • Unmarked van or SUV ($3000-$4000)
  • iPhone ($49 for 16GB)

Five questions to ask before heading out:

  • What are the state laws regarding consent?
  • Is there an expectation of privacy?
  • Will I be trespassing?
  • What gear is best?
  • Do I need backup?

Top tip:

  • Be comfortable with your equipment and interview before you go. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Example of an undercover piece done on a budget:

Anna Hewson:


Chhaya Nene is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California, where she earned her Master's Degree. Nene's articles and photography have been published in The Washington Post, Religious News Service, The Global Post,, and

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