Check back soon for in-depth reports by Gannett journalists covering a variety of panels and sessions at IRE 2012.
- Free Tools
On a budget? Who isn’t these days? But you don’t have to spend a penny to own a bunch of powerful and easy-to-use tools for gathering, analyzing and presenting data. We’ll tell you about some of the most popular free stuff available, from tools for wrangling, analyzing and mapping data to basics such as free spreadsheets, text editors and photo editing software.
- Investigating Social Networks
What is network analysis (aka social network analysis)? How can I use it in my reporting? We’ll cover the basic concepts involved in analyzing the connections between people and organizations. We’ll look at a project that analyzed the social connections of 1,000 high-ranking officials in South Korea.
- Advanced Google search methods for investigative reporting
Google is a remarkable tool with incredible capabilty, but it’s a system with a great deal of depth that’s not widely understood. This session will demonstrate many different methods and techniques for finding things you didn’t think could be found, as well as discussing some of the strategies you can use for online investigations in the years ahead.
- Analyzing the past, present and future with U.S. Census data
From poverty to wealth, high school dropouts to graduate degrees, census data offers the best measure of your community. It also gives you basic tools of social justice reporting – ways to measure discrimination, inequality, segregation, overcrowding, diversity, walkability, assimilation and more. We’ll walk you through these measures, showing how you can use them to add depth to your stories.
- Managers: Making the Investigative Commitment and Building the Team
It starts with a firm vision at the top and unwavering courage to pursue watchdog stories in the face of declining profits, heavy criticism, and competing news priorities. How do you keep the watchdog commitment firm and strong (and actually build something) when financial pressures are forcing newsroom cutbacks in most places. Newsroom leaders share their experiences, success stories and survival tips.
- Fighting for records and access
The panel explores public records practices across the U.S., with special attention to emerging trends in privatization, electronic documents, privacy claims of corporations and commonly requested records.
- Follow the money: The boom in toll roads
For a century, building and operating U.S. roads has mostly been a government monopoly. Taxes have mostly paid the bill. No longer. Now roads are often built, run and even owned outright by investors. That means tolls. It also means that governments have to sift through a maze of ways to finance, build and operate a highway while still protecting the public interest. Find out how to follow the money in the booming world of toll roads.
- Digging into housing scandals
In communities large and small, there is plenty to investigate involving low-income housing. But it’s a topic that many news organizations ignore. Learn about the kinds of stories you can uncover, and the impact you can have, when you dig into housing issues. Reporters from two small news organizations – the Advertiser Democrat in Norway, Maine (a Pulitzer finalist this year) and the Chicago Reporter – have had big impact with their work.
- Social media for journalists
You know the basics of Tweeting and posting Facebook status updates. Now it’s time to take it to the next level as a social media sleuth – harnessing the power of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, plus geolocation and analytic tools. Learn new ways to find sources, background people and companies, and break stories before the competition.
- The art of source development
From beat reporting to hard-core investigations, human sourcing is essential. Learn how to find and cultivate insiders in the know over the long-term, but also on the fly. How do you get people to talk? What do you do when someone walks out of an interview? This session will cover everything from that initial trust-building to crossing the Rubicon.
- Are you ready? Digging into breaking news
Tips and strategies for bringing an investigative edge to breaking-news stories, including how to develop a story in real time while using documents, databases, readers, and innovative tools to own the story in print and online.
- The new money trail: Tracking spending in an earmark-free world
In 2010 Congress banned earmarks, a legislative gimmick, which lets lawmakers attach pet projects to spending bills. But that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to bring home the dollars. This panel will examine the many ways lawmakers are still able to get projects funded for highways, sewer systems, even projects to beneficial to campaign donors, in their districts or states despite the ban.
- Investigating racial disparities
From traffic stops to jury composition, examining racial disparities can be tricky. Learn what you need to know to analyze race in your community. Panelists include a social psychologist who is an expert on race and social perceptions and journalists who have reported on racial disparities.
- On the beat: Businesses and corporations
Corporations raise and spend trillions of dollars, build and tear down property, file for patents and copyrights, set up complex partnerships, sue and get sued, and otherwise file reams of documents every year. With all that activity, they leave plenty of marks for investigative journalists to follow. Take your stories beyond the usual sources and learn how to dig through bankruptcy documents, regulatory filings, lawsuits, and other helpful records.
- Managers: Picking projects that will have impact
What kind of story is worth working on for a year? Three veteran editors talk about how to find compelling and revelatory investigative project ideas, how to refine them and make sure they demand readers’ attention and, ultimately, how to get them published in print or online with engaging visuals and other storytelling tools. And making lemonade out of lemons, or what to do when a story goes bust.
- Investigating sacred cows
Investigative reporting is on especially sensitive ground when it takes on beloved local heroes and the most revered institutions. Courageous journalism can provoke fierce public reaction and even internal friction. News organizations’ commercial interests might be at stake. Panelists, who have had sports icons and even the Boy Scouts in their investigative sights, will discuss precautionary measures they took before the first word was printed or broadcast, how they faced a gathering storm of criticism, and how they managed delicate issues within their own organizations.
- Writing the investigative story
If circumstances allow, write a story, not an exposé. Create suspense. Use dialogue. Shift perspective. Circle and loop. Experiment with Chekhov’s gun. Heed Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules of Writing,” particularly No. 10: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Beware of formula and lose the bullets. (They’re more like tranquilizer darts, likely to put readers to sleep.)
- Investigating poverty
More Americans live in poverty than ever before. But stories about poverty can be hard to sell, both in news meetings and on newsstands. Learn practical tools for understanding today’s poverty and antipoverty programs, dos and don’ts for covering low-income issues and new ways to cover poverty that will impress editors and intrigue readers.