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IRE and SPJ to Partner on ‘Better Watchdog Workshops’


Contact: Brant Houston, executive director, Investigative Reporters and Editors, 573/882-1984; Al Cross, president, Society of Professional Journalists, 502/648-8433, across@spj.org

Columbia, Mo. -- Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) have joined forces to conduct a series of “Better Watchdog Workshops” for beat reporters.

The workshops will teach journalists how to do investigative and enterprise reporting while on a beat and will emphasize the use of freedom of information laws in the pursuit of these stories. The workshops will specifically serve both print and broadcast journalists from small- to medium-size news organizations.

IRE has conducted several of these workshops in the past few years, the most recent drawing 130 journalists from a four-state region to Madison, Wis., last month.

The initial funding will come from SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi Foundation and further support will be sought from local news organizations and associations. Training materials will include IRE’s Beat Book series and SPJ’s Open Doors handbook for reporters, also funded by the SDX Foundation.

IRE Executive Director Brant Houston and SPJ President Al Cross made a joint announcement of the project, following funding of its first phase by the SDX Foundation last week.

“This is an exciting collaboration in a time of tight training budgets and draws from the strengths of both organizations,” said IRE Executive Director Brant Houston.

“It comes at a time when freedom of information is under attack as never before,” said Cross. “One of the best ways to defend that freedom is to use it, and that’s what these workshops will be about.”

Cross and Houston also noted that the two organizations were responding to a recent Knight Foundation survey that found journalists’ biggest dissatisfaction was with a lack of training.

“Our organizations have a strong background in professional development and are happy to step forward to help meet this need,” said Cross, a political writer and columnist at The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

Houston said the workshops answer a plea from journalists at smaller news organizations to hold more regional workshops to which they can afford to travel.

“These workshops demonstrate the grassroots spirit that endures at both IRE and SPJ,” Houston said.

Sites and dates for the workshops will be determined cooperatively. Some will be incorporated into SPJ regional conferences and other IRE training activities.

In most cases, workshops will consist of one day of intensive instruction. In some cases, a second day of training will be offered in computer-assisted reporting.

For more information, journalists should visit the groups’ Web sites: www.ire.org and www.spj.org.

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