A good conference inspires us to do something better on Monday, as long as other things don’t get in the way. Here are the big lessons I’ll take back to the newsroom. Some of these are basic or often repeated but it’s a good time to be reminded.
- Investigative reporting is a craft. Perfect it. It’s easy to get lost in the daily production cycle of journalism. To produce compelling investigative work, we have to work at it every day and every week. If you want to learn Excel, find a story on Monday that will force you to learn it.
- Experiment. The future is here. The world has adapted to the information revolution. (Here’s a clear reminder, if you need one.) That means we must adapt our work habits, too. We should experiment with new ways to use technology to report and tell stories. Areas ripe for experimentation: Data, social media, mobile, geo-location, distribution, partnerships.
- Data. It’s everywhere. Use it. Because it matters.
- Ask for help. Someone somewhere in IRE is an expert in whatever you want to learn. Just ask for help. If you like data, the NICAR listserv is a great place to start.
- Fight on. The business of journalism is tough. We can whine. Or we can suck it up, open another spreadsheet and find the next story.
You can find all conference tipsheets on the IRE site. Some of my favorites:
General investigative reporting
- Matt Apuzzo: Investigating powerful institutions
- Backgrounding: Strategies and Duff Wilson’s Who is John Doe?
- 100 tools for investigative work + 5 more tools
- Complaints: A roadmap for investigations
- How Duff Wilson teaches investigative reporting
- Bulletproofing stories – Mark Schoofs + my notes from that session
- Managing investigative work
- 11 tips for successfully managing investigative projects
Documents + public records
- Sports: The intersection of the NFL and local government – Liam Dillion and Brent Schrotenboer
- Health care: Finding data and other tips
- Gaming: Hong Kong and Macau
- Water: Covering drought in the parched west
- Politics + government: Tracking money and influence in politics + tracking campaign finance + how to find stories in government contract data (slidedeck) + investigating big transportation projects
- Immigration: FOIA tips + finding documents and stats
- Law enforcement: Finding sources outside police and prosecutors + investigating rape kits + covering sexually violent predators
- Energy: How to find stories in clean energy
Web + tech
- 10 more things you should know about Google
- Tools for web scraping
- Web scraping with Tabula
- Use the crowd to power investigative reporting
- PDF madness – Cheryl Phillips & Tyler Dukes + More from Tyler Dukes
- DocumentCloud for stories
- The web for investigations
Here are my round-ups of sessions I attended on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Or check out the full thread.
- Managers track: Bulletproofing your stories
- Creating a culture of creativity
- Unmaking the cheaters: From biogenesis to BALCO
- How to find stories in government contracting data
- Managers track: Creating an investigative culture in your newsroom
- Managers track: Placing your bets – Choosing the right stories
- Investigating powerful institutions, inside & out
- Web tools, tips and tricks for investigations
And a another big thanks to the staff, volunteers and speakers who put everything together.
It’s hard not to have a good time in San Francisco. The best parts.
- AT&T Park. A beaut.
- Specs. A fine example of North Beach life. Unionized bar tenders and cans of Oly.
- And so is Caffee Triste. Crappy website. Fantastic lattes.
- City Lights Books. Not as good as Powell’s. But still cool.
- Getting lost with this guy because of we were too busy staring at the view of the bay.