Poynter and IRE Workshop: Investigating Local Government on a Shoestring Budget (B408-13)
APPLICATIONS FOR THIS SEMINAR ARE NO LONGER BEING ACCEPTED.
The low $300 tuition for this seminar is made possible by a generous grant from The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation.
Join The Poynter Institute and Investigative Reporters and Editors for an intensive, practical hands-on workshop to teach journalists how to investigate and report on their local governments. The workshop is especially focused toward newsrooms that do not have big budgets or staffs to produce exhaustive projects.
What Will Participants Learn? Here is the Schedule and the All-Star Lineup of Faculty and Guest Faculty:
We will focus on core issues that will produce immediate results:
- LOTS of Hands-On training to teach journalists how to use spreadsheets and databases.
- How to ask for and use open records and hidden documents even when you are on daily deadline.
- How I Did the Story: We’ll examine stories of significance with the help of the journalists who did them, closely examining the records, the methods, and the results that the best investigations produce. We will keep in mind that you have to work fast, you often have limited resources and time. We will keep it real and practical.
- How to use 10 tools to tell your story beyond newspaper pages or the TV screen.
- Hands-On Data Visualization training: You will learn how to turn numbers into journalism even if you have no coding skills and little time.
We KNOW how to do this. Here is what our participants say about their experience in our last “Investigating Local Government on A Budget” seminar.
“When I was covering local school districts, I saw any topic as open for investigation. Did a story on local honor rolls being inflated, and I was able to dig into records of how school districts handled bullying incidents, demonstrating they didn’t apply a new state law consistently, leaving some parents unaware of incidents. I investigated the dismissal of a high school principal, and pushed for the release of documents including the termination agreement that showed she received almost $70,000 in severance. The seminar taught me that records are there for a reason, that I should have no compunction about asking for them, and has simply helped frame my approach to all stories, not ones specifically labeled “investigations,” which gives an authority to my voice as a writer I didn’t have before.” ~ Sarah Palermo, Concord Monitor, Staff reporter
“My name is Scott Carroll and I am an editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In 2011 a county employee was arrested for taking bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative public contracts, which led us to start digging. By the time it was over more than a dozen top county employees – including the county administrator – were fired or forced to resign. The county then overhauled its policies concerning such contracts and hired an Ethics Officer to monitor them. The “Investigating Local Government on a Budget” seminar I attended was invaluable in helping drive coverage about the scandal. For example, I was able to help my reporters set up an excel spreadsheet to track $300 million in annual county government contracts, and we used Document Cloud to help organize our reporting. I did not have that knowledge before attending the “Investigating Local Government on a Budget” seminar. It gets results.” ~ Scott Carroll, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune
“When I attended this seminar in 2010, I was a Consumer-Investigative Reporter in Fort Myers, Florida. This seminar gave me some of the skills that I needed to land my new job as an Investigative Reporter in Oklahoma City a few months later.
While this seminar taught me and other journalists how to better investigate and hold our government officials accountable, it also taught us how to be better overall investigators.
The skills I learned during this seminar helped me uncover a story that later led to national coverage and got the attention of a lawmaker who recently drafted legislation.
I’m eternally grateful to the Poynter Institute and the people who work there. I am a better journalist and a better person because of Poynter.” ~ Marisa Mendelson, Investigative Reporter, KOKH-TV
“Now in my third decade as a journalist, Poynter’s Investigating Local Government on a Budget recharged my batteries and renewed my belief in watchdog, in-depth journalism.
With my news organization, if Poynter had not paid the bill I would not have gone.
The setting for the seminar in St. Petersburg was incredible. The water, the pelicans, the Poynter center, the restaurants where we shared and debated were awesome.
The speakers were both practical idea generators and role models for the journalism values obscured by downsizing, layoffs, the needs for productivity and page views. Federal stimulus spending, the rise and fall of s methamphetamine in Oregon, producing data-driven stories and a TV reporter’s tour of quick-turn investigative stories were both practical and inspiring.
Had we picked up on a hint to use nonprofit records to investigate veterans’ charities, we would have beaten Anderson Cooper at CNN to what later turned out to be a national story. Seeing and hearing famous, old-school television anchor Dan Rather was thought provoking, as were the fellow journalists at the seminar.
And our company is set to launch its “four platform” strategy targeting smart phone, tablet, web and print users next month. I already was introduced to that future at the seminar.
In addition to providing a wealth of knowledge that I continue to tap, the seminar reminded me to dig deeper, request records, resist giving in to the easy byline and moving on every day. I think the biggest payoff was requesting a list of Memphis police officers who were arrested for about nine months of last year and then looking up their internal and court records. I’ve had story ideas for months.
The seminar reminded me of what journalism should be and can be even as newspaper resources continue to shrink. Borrowing from Rather, you might say that it gave me courage.” ~
Kevin McKenzie, reporter, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal
“I hope more journalists have the opportunity to attend the 2013 “Investigating Local Government on a Budget.” It gave me the skills and confidence to produce stories that exposed questionable practices in local government and promoted the public interest.
Here are some examples. In March 2011, I used computer-assisted reporting skills from the seminar to track the growing cost of the local district attorney’s grand jury inquiry into a county official’s decision to release public records. I’ve also used these techniques extensively in campaign finance stories, and I taught them to other reporters in our newsroom.
In August 2011, I used public records to break a story about a backlog of county mental health patient appointments. County workers were placing people on a wait list to schedule appointments, and some people waited 30 to 60 days. I also used a public records request to break a story in early 2012 about a county commissioner who was secretly discussing a property deal with the former business partner of her soon-to-be father-in-law. The proposal would cost taxpayers $3 million more than an alternative option and after I reported on it, the county commission decided not to pursue it.
I could not have attended this seminar without your financial support due to our newspaper’s financial straits. I hope similar support can help other journalists attend this important training in the future.” ~ Hillary Borrud, The Bulletin
Why Poynter and IRE?
The Poynter Institute offers more than 35 years of journalism training experience, and IRE is the world’s foremost organization dedicated to investigative journalism.
These two organizations have produced many successful projects over the years, including a specialized reporting workshop to help journalists who were covering the BP Oil spill, multiple investigative reporting workshops at IRE conventions and boot camps, and a 2010 seminar “Investigating Local Government on a Budget.” That seminar was aimed at small and mid-size newsrooms, which are vital when it comes to monitoring city and country governments.
Who Will Benefit:
Senior Faculty, Broadcast and Online
Executive Director, Investigative Reporters & Editors
Training Director, Investigative Reporters & Editors
Computer-assisted Reporting Editor, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Investigative Reporter, WSMV-TV, Nashville
Reporter, Tampa Bay Times
Deputy Editor of PolitiFact and Editor of PolitiFact Florida