Meet the candidates for the IRE Board of Directors.
- Ziva Branstetter
- Len Downie Jr.
- Ryan Gabrielson
- Matt Goldberg
- David Cay Johnston
- Fredrik Laurin
- Matthew Leonard
- Josh Meyer
- T. Christian Miller
- Matt Waite
I have more than two decades of experience as an editor and reporter at three newspapers. I currently supervise the Tulsa World’s five-member team of investigative reporters. Before that, I spent three years as the World’s city editor, was a member of the investigative projects team and held other editing and reporting positions. Before joining the World’s staff in 1994, I worked for The Tulsa Tribune and the Philadelphia Daily News as a reporter and editor.
As a member of IRE's contest committee, I served as a pre-screener and judge for this year's contest, which included reading and viewing more than 100 entries. I also worked with IRE board members and staff to develop ideas to improve the contest and am working with the national conference committee on increasing attendance from our state. I was also honored this year to serve as a member of the Pulitzer Prize jury for investigative reporting.
I am 2013 president-elect of Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc., a nonprofit watchdog group devoted to open government, and have held leadership positions on the boards including the Tulsa Press Club, and the Eastern Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. I have also served on the board of Tulsa's Child Abuse Network.
I am a graduate of Leadership Tulsa and Leadership Oklahoma and completed the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting weeklong boot camp sponsored by IRE. I’ve spoken and taught at many IRE and NICAR workshops and conferences over the years. I've led numerous workshops in my state for the Oklahoma Press Association, teaching reporters at smaller news organizations how to fight for open records in their communities and what to do with them once they prevail. I have represented the Tulsa World in a number of open records lawsuits filed by the paper, now owned by BH Media.
I hold a unique position as both editor and investigative reporter, writing my own stories. I coordinate investigative and enterprise stories with reporters in all departments and members of my own team. Recent projects I have edited include a series that explored reasons behind Oklahoma’s #1 worldwide ranking in female incarceration. I also led the World’s coverage of a police corruption scandal, in which more than 40 people were freed from prison or had charges dropped. Our stories about a woman serving a life prison sentence for possessing a small amount of drugs resulted in the woman being freed from prison. My team was also awarded a Google Ideas grant in January from IRE for a project on our state's handling of national mortgage settlement funds.
My reporting projects include a series about a state board that took little action against bad nursing home administrators. The series resulted in dismissal of the entire board and a rewrite of regulations. For the past two years, I have been investigating a statewide ambulance trust. The series has led to an audit, a class-action lawsuit, new policies, refunds and dropped lawsuits. It was named one of 10 finalists in the 2012 Data Journalism Awards.
I have been an IRE member for more than two decades and consider myself an evangelist for the organization. I am currently a member of the contest committee and am working with the national conference committee to raise awareness and increase attendance in my state.
I am running for the board because I believe I bring an important perspective as both an editor and reporter at a smaller Midwest market. This area and demographic represents a growth opportunity for IRE. In these times of limited budgets and layoffs, I believe IRE offers resources to ensure journalists at organizations large and small fulfill their watchdog roles. I would work to ensure that IRE continues to serve its members through its website, workshops and conferences and develop new ways to reach out to journalists in underserved areas.
If elected to the IRE board, I would focus on growing membership at small and medium news outlets. I am also interested in exploring partnerships between IRE and other nonprofit organizations. I have served on numerous boards and committees in Tulsa and Oklahoma. I am familiar with fundraising, event planning, growing membership and other aspects of nonprofit board service.
I have the support of my employer and the time and energy to dedicate myself to the IRE board. I believe if you are going to be on a board, you need to be an active member who brings something to the organization. I’m ready and able to do that. I lost my bid to join IRE’s board by eight votes last year. While I have no wish to become the Susan Lucci of IRE, I’m running again because I believe I have something to contribute to an organization that has been so much help to me and my profession.
I would be honored to serve on the IRE board and humbly request your vote.
Leonard Downie Jr.
I’m the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where I teach accountability journalism and lead News21 – a Cronkite School-based, foundation-funded national investigative reporting project for students from journalism schools throughout the country (www.news21.com). Last year, their reporting on voting rights (www.votingrights.news21.com) appeared in more than two dozen news media nationwide.
I am also vice president at large of The Washington Post, where I retired as executive editor in 2008. During my 44 years on the news staff of The Washington Post, I was an investigative reporter, foreign correspondent, metropolitan editor, national editor, managing editor from 1984 to 1991, and executive editor from 1991 to 2008. As deputy metropolitan editor from 1972 to 1974, I helped supervise The Post’s Watergate coverage. During my 17 years as executive editor, The Post’s news staff won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, many of them for investigative and other accountability journalism.
I’m a former board member of the Center for Investigative Reporting and current chair of the advisory committees of Kaiser Health News and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. I researched and wrote, with Michael Schudson, a major report on the future of news, The Reconstruction of American Journalism, published in 2009 by The Journalism School of Columbia University.
I’m the author of five books: Justice Denied (1971); Mortgage on America (1974); The New Muckrakers (1976), which has been re-published by Investigative Reporters and Editors; The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril (with Robert G. Kaiser, 2002), and a novel, The Rules of the Game (2008).
I’m one of the founders of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. in 1975, and I’ve been a member of its board for several years. As in my teaching, research and writing, my mission for active involvement in IRE is to help investigative reporting survive and prosper in the fast-changing media environment of the digital age.
IRE and its generous members taught me almost everything I know about investigative reporting and, really, the principles of good journalism. I’m running for the IRE board to start paying interest on that debt. The organization is traveling on the right course. I would be honored to help uphold its tradition of supporting journalists who dig for the truth.
Whenever I’ve asked for assistance, IRE has come through for me. In 2005, as a guppy city hall reporter at the East Valley Tribune, I was struggling to analyze a massive federal data set. I left a voicemail at the NICAR office explaining I was lost and wondering if the folks in Missouri had any guidance. The next day I received a call from Brant Houston, then IRE’s executive director, to answer my questions. I was stunned that the top official would respond to a nobody like me. Every member matters.
Clearly, this is a special group.
I would bring to the board the perspective of a reporter who works on multiplatform projects (translating my reporting into print stories, video, radio, interactives, and even animation). Such experience is relevant as our newsrooms increasingly move stories across several platforms at once to maximize the bang they get for their investment in deeper reporting, and to expand stories’ reach.
IRE has already taken long strides to better provide reporters and editors with tools. The conferences successfully train journalists of all experience levels, giving members reason to return year after year. I would like to see the organization pursue more ways to make those four days of training have a greater impact for attendees the other 361 days when we’re out doing spade work. Our ongoing effort to grow membership is critical, but so is deepening IRE’s ties with those members. Too often, I’ve heard newly energized reporters at conferences express anxiety that their newsrooms will be indifferent to their ambitions to pursue bigger stories. The organization should invest more in developing tools that can raise members’ games – and bring them into more regular contact with IRE all year long, nurturing investigative reporting cultures across the country one reporter at a time.
A shining example of this was the decision to bring DocumentCloud under the organization’s tent. I believe IRE should continue to support similar efforts, offering a forum for new big ideas.
I started my career reporting for The Monitor in McAllen, TX, covering schools, cops and municipal corruption on the Texas-Mexico border. I moved on to the East Valley Tribune, where I spent two years on the Scottsdale city hall beat before switching to cover higher education and undertake project reporting. In 2008, my reporting with Tribune colleague Paul Giblin exposed how immigration enforcement by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office undermined criminal investigations and emergency response. The stories won a Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. My work has garnered numerous honors, including two George Polk awards, the Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting, a Sigma Delta Chi award, a National Award for Education Reporting and has been a finalist for the Livingston Award the past two years.
I was a 2009-2010 investigative reporting fellow at UC Berkeley and then joined California Watch at the Center for Investigative Reporting as a public safety reporter. Last year, I reported on an in-house police force at California's developmental centers, documenting how detectives often fail to secure crime scenes and routinely delay interviews with key witnesses and suspects – leading to an alarming inability to solve crimes. The series, titled "Broken Shield," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and won two IRE awards.
I’d greatly appreciate your vote. Thanks for your time.
Investigative reporting is the foundation of journalism. It doesn’t matter if you work in print, radio, TV or interactive, I believe we have a public responsibility to hold the powerful accountable. And I know firsthand, that IRE makes that ideal possible.
In 1997, I attended my first IRE conference and it changed my life in a profound way: it galvanized my interest in investigative work which was both exciting and a bit daunting as a young producer. That excitement has morphed into an on-going challenge for which I have dedicated my career.
I have spent the last 17 years as an investigative producer at television stations in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix and San Francisco. And in the last two years, I have brought that knowledge into management as the Assistant News Director at the NBC owned station in the San Francisco Bay Area. In a climate where so many stations have been eliminating and pairing down their investigative teams, I have had the privilege to build and run one of the biggest investigative reporting units in the country. Now, I want to help sustain and build IRE, an organization with resources that stand at the heart of so much meaningful journalism.
There is no doubt that IRE is about knowledge: Learning from your peers and learning new skills. Through training sessions and conferences that I have helped to organize, I have witnessed the enormous impact IRE has had on my colleagues and employees. As a board member, I will make sure the resources of IRE become even more available. To do this, we need money. As a board member, I will work tirelessly to find sources for funding that allow the organization to remain independent and financially strong. This year, I brought my organization, NBC News and the NBC Owned TV Stations, to the table with financial support for IRE. I have committed to serve on the local committee and raise funds for next year's national conference in San Francisco.
Together, no matter where our work is published or aired, we are IRE. Our membership needs to grow and we must continue to seek new perspectives from industry and academia. By reaching out to the journalism community, we can build a strong base that will make IRE more powerful and influential.
I have long been a part of the IRE community, helping the organization as a member. My hope is that starting this year, I can take my commitment to the organization and drive its mission as a leader from within. Thank you for your consideration and your vote.
David Cay JohnstonIf members choose me again, I will continue to work on making sure IRE is strong in every way, from expanding our training so more members now and in the future acquire the skills to hold those with power accountable to building out our talented staff and supporting them with the financial resources needed to serve IRE members.
Innovations like DocumentCloud and the growing need for (and popularity of) NICAR training are just part of what I will work to make sure are enduring benefits of IRE membership.
IRE, and its Swedish equivalent Grävande Journalister that was founded on the example of IRE, have been my university and training ground as an investigative journalist for more than twenty years. Both in terms of methods but also in building the vast international network that today forms one of my most important assets as an investigative journalist for Swedish TV.
I work out of Stockholm, Sweden, but the world and our reporting grows increasingly global. When me and my colleagues in 2004 unraveled how the Swedish Security police cooperated with the CIA in rendering two asylum seekers from Sweden to torture in Egypt IRE members from Boston, London, Washington and colleagues in Karachi and Jakarta were instrumental. And that is how it has continued. And I think that has to increase if journalism is going to be able to report on the facts and realities of today´s world where we fight wars in far away places and our most common household goods are produced by unnamed millions in Asia.
The value of being able to pick up the phone or hit the keyboard and within minutes have a criminal record emailed from New Zeeland or a company registration read to me over Skype from Moscow can´t be underestimated. That network and the willingness to help and cooperate between journalists have been part of the research framework of almost all our reports for the last ten years: An that network would not have been possible without organizations like IRE.
The work of IRE has inspired not only Swedes but organizations all over the world, and I believe that IRE still has a very important role in strengthening the bonds between journalists world wide.
So, in short I have gained a lot from IRE, its conferences and its members and If there is a need for an outside perspective I´m happy to try to contribute with that as a board member.
I hope I can add some knowledge on cross border investigative reporting and give an international approach to IRE that after all is one of the most important investigative organizations in the world.
More on who I am and what we have done in terms of international reporting can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fredrik_Laurin
Some thoughts on what is the driving force in my journalism are collected in a Q&A at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism where I´m a proud member and sometimes a contributor to their projects.
After a couple of decades working in public media in the Southern hemisphere, I’m now working in the north-east as editor of the Innovation Trail Local Journalism Center. This is an exciting enterprise. I’m fortunate to be working with a talented team of reporters and news directors to enrich the coverage of upstate and central New York, from Buffalo to Albany to the Adirondacks. There’s great work already being done, and enormous potential to do even more, particularly in the digital space.
Meeting the needs of our contributing partners across the diverse Empire State is a constant challenge, and communication is crucial. On the plus side of the ledger, the decentralized team of contributors enables our project to make valuable connections across regions around important story areas like energy, health, agriculture and the job market.
Having only been in this role since last August, I’ve relied heavily on the support and expertise of my colleagues and I am fortunate to be building additional connections across the public media sector in the course of sharing content, developing stories and building capacity in our project.
Making the Innovation Trail project a member of the ire.org was an obvious move. The assets of the organization, particularly its expertise in training are enormously valuable to the ongoing development of our reporting. As we revisit the project brief moving into its fourth year, enterprise and investigative reporting will become even more significant.
Having worked as producer, executive producer and manager I’ve got a pretty broad range of experience that I would want to bring to working on the IRE board on behalf of the membership.
The issues I am animated on include: succession planning and futureproofing, the value of ongoing training and the need to cultivate collaborations.
I would bring some useful information assets from the Innovation Trail LJC to share on the IRE board particularly around the business efficiencies achieved through content and resource sharing.
I’m asking for your vote for re-election to the IRE Board of Directors so I can continue my work on some key initiatives, and so I can help identify and launch new ones that are important to you, the members of this great organization.
I’m proud to say that I’ve been an active member of IRE for 30 years this summer, starting with my first annual conference as a senior in college. As a member of the board of directors, I’ve helped steer the organization through many important strategic decisions about its future.
I’ve also helped launch an IRE Meetup program in Washington, DC, a regular networking gathering of journalists at local pubs that IRE is now establishing in other cities because of its huge success. The DC Meetups bring scores of new members to IRE and allow them to get to know—and help—each other, as well as journalists from other media organizations we collaborate with.
Importantly, the Meetups have allowed me to spend many hours with IRE members, new and old, soliciting their ideas about how IRE can help them so I can take them back to the board.
I’ve also helped create an exciting new award dubbed the Golden Padlock, recognizing the most secretive publicly-funded agency or person in the United States.
I’ve served as a contest screener, and worked hard to raise more money for IRE. I’m the chair of the Endowment Committee, which oversees IRE’s endowment and investments. And I continue to play an active role within IRE in other ways, including being a conference planner, panelist and moderator, as I have for more than two decades.
I believe I’m uniquely qualified to continue serving on the board and being a steadfast advocate for its many diverse constituencies.
I spent 27 years at newspapers and wire services, 20 of them as an award-winning investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. I know how to fight for the issues near and dear to the hearts of my friends in mainstream media.
But I also joined the digital revolution four years ago by establishing the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, and am familiar with the concerns and interests of those at the leading edges of new journalistic frontiers. As a freelance writer, book author and college journalism professor, I’m familiar with issues important to these groups.
In fact, I’ve made it a priority during my board tenure to advocate for all of these members. I’ll continue to do so if elected to another term.
I owe so much to IRE, and believe it has never been more needed, or more effective, in fighting for journalists in this rapidly changing media environment.
I want to continue doing all I can to personally ensure that IRE remains the best place for reporters—veterans and newbies alike, and across all media platforms—to become part of investigative reporting’s bright future. I would consider it an honor and a privilege to continue to serve.
T. Christian Miller
I’m running for the Investigative Reporters and Editor’s Board of Directors for two simple reasons: past debts and future investment.
On the first, I owe much of my career to the IRE. I started taking IRE courses in the early 1990s, attending the first-ever computer assisted reporting boot camp. Afterwards, I began attending IRE and NICAR seminars, trying to maintain a balance between learning new technology and refining shoe leather techniques. I have taught courses, mentored fellow reporters and served on IRE’s annual awards judging committee.
I have taken the knowledge gained at IRE and NICAR to almost every corner of the journalism world. I have worked in old media (the St. Petersburg Times, the Los Angeles Times) and new (ProPublica). I have worked on local beats (cops and courts, city halls and county government) and at international news bureaus (Bogota, Baghdad). I’ve covered statehouse politics (Tallahassee) and national political campaigns (Bush). I’ve done television (ABC’s 20/20); radio (NPR) and print (lotsa places). I’ve done heavy lifting on the data side (spreadsheets, databases, GIS), met sources in strange places (a Popeye’s Chicken in Washington) and pursued stories where ever they have led. I’ve written an investigative book (Blood Money, an IRE finalist) and an Amazon Single (Aftershock). Along the way, I’ve won local, national and international reporting prizes, including an IRE award.
A powerful reminder of the debt I owed came in Phoenix a few years ago, when I checked into a hotel that I found through a cheap rooms website. By chance, it turned out to be the same hotel where Don Bolles had met with a source just before his murder. A small plaque in the lobby memorialized the events which gave rise to the IRE and thus, my own career. I realized then that I had to give back.
And that brings us to future investment. Where do I see IRE going in the future? Four points:
- I’d like to see us continue our focus on fostering innovation among journalists, editors and news outlets. Our business may be limping along. But that doesn’t mean we should give up gathering and delivering news in creative ways, taking advantage of all the tools at our disposal. The IRE serves and should strengthen its role as a collaborative common grounds for swapping new ideas in investigative journalism.
- I also believe we need to grow our membership. To succeed in the future, journalism must be a big tent. Everybody should be welcome. That means new media and old, citizen journalists and experienced professionals, geeks and document hounds. Journalism, in my book, is not a profession. It’s an action. And we have to make sure as many people as possible who are committing acts of journalism are trained, inspired and dedicated to sharing their knowledge and insights with each other, as well as their publics.
- I think we also need to keep our eyes on the world around us. Specifically, IRE must continue its core work of helping small, medium and large American news outlets cover their communities, while also reaching out to help investigative journalists in other countries. The world is global and many local stories have an international angle. Investigative journalists here must be able to connect with work being done abroad. It keeps the craft alive and will promote new ideas.
- Finally, nothing is ever going to replace the value of a great source. But data-driven journalism will play an increasingly large role in the future as data becomes more available and readers more sophisticated. IRE and NICAR must jointly train journalists in the increasingly complex skills sets needed to navigate the world of data journalism. From opening files in a spreadsheet to web scraping in Ruby, the two organizations must figure how to deliver the right training to ensure that journalists are not overwhelmed by a flood of technology.
In summary, I think that my wide and deep experience has prepared me for a position on the board. I want to bring that knowledge, along with my energy and enthusiasm for the future, to the IRE. I would be honored to receive your vote.
You don’t need me to tell you journalism is changing. The most successful efforts in these times of change follow a formula: respect for the past, eyes on the future.
That’s what I bring to the IRE Board. Over the last two years on the board, I have brought my love of the organization and my firm focus on the future to discussions about the organization’s direction. From the new IRE.org to modernizing practices of the organization, we must respect where we’ve come from while looking to a new day.
I’ve built my professional career on this idea. I became involved in computer-assisted reporting in the mid 1990s as a student, built a reporting career out of using data to do good journalism, and moved into web development in the late 2000s. As a web developer, I built PolitiFact, a site that takes an old idea -- accountability journalism -- and modifies it for our web culture. It was the first website to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Now, as a university professor, I see the future all around me. My research areas include using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for investigative reporting and wireless sensor networks for data journalism. I teach students the foundations of good reporting in a beginner class and about investigative reporting and data journalism later when they’re seniors. I teach programming to journalism students, mentor them on digital skills outside of class and am exploring university-wide efforts on getting more computer-science into the humanities (including journalism). With everything, I want my students to understand why we do what we do, and how to make it better.
It’s been my honor to serve on the board the last two years and to give back to an organization that has given me so much. I ask you to help me continue that service.