This past weekend, I attended the Investigative Reporters & Editors Watchdog Workshop at Texas State University with two of my coworkers from KACU. I decided to attend the workshop out of curiosity; I didn’t know what to expect and had no idea what we would be doing. Coming out of the workshop, I thought it was such a valuable experience and I was persuaded to try more reporting at KACU.
The workshop was geared toward reporters and students who wanted to learn about investigative reporting. I got to hear fantastic stories and presentations from individuals that work for KXAN in Austin and the Houston Chronicle. I even got to meet Kimbriell Kelly from The Washington Post and Melissa Del Bosque, a writer for the Texas Observer and the author of Bloodlines (which she gave me a copy of!).
A major element the workshop focused on was the Freedom of Information Act and filing FOIA requests. IRE wanted to emphasize the importance of finding as much information as possible when doing an investigation, and taught attendants how to be extremely specific about the information they want to request. The spokespersons also offered tips for what a reporter can do if a request is denied. Most importantly, they wanted to make sure that all reporters know their rights when they are trying to dig for information that a government entity might not be too keen to share.
Overall, I had a great time and learned so much (and now have a million ways to search for information about people). Hearing the stories that Kimbriell Kelly told about her own reporting inspired me – and networking with dozens of other reporters from NPR member stations all around Texas was amazing.