SAVE THE DATE: Summer 2015 National Security Journalism Data/Watchdog Workshop

Save the Date!   Saturday, July 11, 2015

Mark your calendars now: The Medill National Security Journalism Initiative and Investigative Reporters & Editors, Inc. announce the Summer 2015 National Security Journalism Data/Watchdog Workshop in Washington, D.C.

We’ll be providing a full day’s worth of intensive, hands-on training that focuses on how to use data, documents and the Internet for security reporting at the local, state and national level. The workshop, featuring trainers from IRE and NICAR, its National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting, will be hosted by Medill in its Washington, D.C. newsroom at 1325 G St. NW, Suite 730, Washington, DC.

The program is set for Saturday, July 11, and will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with coffee and bagels for breakfast and sandwiches, chips and drinks for lunch — all for a registration fee of $20. We will cap this event at 35 reporters, so RSVP early by sending an email to with the subject line Medill/IRE National Security Journalism Data/Watchdog Workshop. Those registered to attend will be sent an update with the exact schedule and more details.

Instructors and speakers will include:

• Steven Rich, the database editor for the investigations unit at The Washington Post. While at The Post, he’s worked on numerous security-related projects, and was a member of the reporting team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for NSA revelations. Steven is also a recently elected member of IRE’s Board of Directors and a former staffer there based at IRE headquarters in Missouri.

• Aaron Kessler, a reporter for the New York Times based in Washington who has also been an IRE data journalism trainer. He has managed interactive data-driven websites and worked extensively with visualization/development tools such as Javascipt, JQuery, and Bootstrap.

• Ron Nixon, a reporter and data journalism specialist at the New York Times, will focus on how to cover all the law enforcement agencies most people have never heard of – including domestic surveillance TSA VIPR squads, the secret Postal Service Mail Covers Program and railroad police. He will also talk about how to use federal and state open records laws to draft records requests the right way, how to challenge denials and how to keep a steady flow of information coming into the newsroom with FOI.

• Margot Williams, database editor/correspondent for FirstLook Media publications, including its national security-focused flagship publication, The Intercept. Margot will discuss all of the new tips, tools and technologies you can use to report on national security issues. She has also held that position on NPR’s Investigative Team, The Washington Post and the New York Times.

• Tony DeBarros, the director of Product Development for IRE’s DocumentCloud, will provide hands-on training on how you can use this invaluable tool for reporting, writing and publishing on security-related topics. Tony is a senior member of IRE’s staff, and the former Director of Interactive Applications for Gannett Digital, where he led a team that built data-driven interactives for investigations, elections and the Gannett platform as well as publishing tools for the company’s journalists. Before that, Tony spent 15 years with USA TODAY as a database editor and investigative journalist, working alongside the newsroom’s database team on demographics analysis and investigations.

• Tisha Thompson (invited), an investigative reporter at WRC-TV NBC4 in Washington, DC., is a fifth-generation journalist, and winner of the Loeb, Headliner, EWA, American Legion and Murrow Awards for her data journalism work. She is a frequent speaker at NICAR on how journalists can use database reporting in their daily work, at the local, state and national level. Tisha also specializes in the art of the interview, how to get people to talk to you, even on camera, when they don’t want to.

Sessions will include:

• Overview of the workshop, introduction to covering national security. Putting it all together in the real world, with a look at quick-turn watchdog stories that you can produce in your newsroom.

• Introduction to using data in journalism, including how to use it for analyzing, adding context and finding people to write about.

• Hands-on training in Excel. Learn to build your own spreadsheet from paper records, and basic but powerful functions including putting information in order, filtering out just what you need from a national or statewide data set, and doing calculations with large data sets. We’ll have several tiers, including an intro workshop; importing, sorting and filtering; an introduction to basic formulas and building pivot tables. National security data will be used in the training, focusing on the National Vulnerability Database and other security topics in the news.

• Effective use of the Internet: What reporters and editors need to know. From better search techniques to the invisible Web, how to find documents and databases on deadline on the national security front and where to find reliable Web sites for enterprise stories. The craft of better searching and not wasting time. Handling issues of credibility and ethics online.

• National security data and documents. Move beyond anecdotes and he-said, she-said journalism with data and documents. Advice on developing a documents state of mind, navigating public records, using new technologies, exploring key records on a variety of related topics, and becoming familiar with key data sets to produce high-impact stories.

• What the National Security Journalism Initiative and IRE can do for you.

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