The IRE/NICAR Mentorship Program

IRE organizes a mentorship program each year for people who attend our annual IRE and NICAR conferences. Interested in applying? Here’s what you need to know.

The basics

After you sign up for the program (and register for the conference), IRE staff will review your application and match you with a mentor or mentee.

At an in-person conference, you’ll meet the other half of your pair at a breakfast to get the conversation rolling. At a virtual conference, we’ll have a kickoff meeting instead of a breakfast, but otherwise things will look similar: IRE will still match mentors and mentees, and you’ll still have an opportunity to set up one-on-one meetings on our virtual conference platform. Connections made during these meetings can grow and develop organically long after the conference.

The mentor relationship should be mentor-led but mentee-driven: The mentor guides the relationship, but it’s up to the mentee to keep the train rolling.

Work together early on to set clear, realistic goals and expectations. Some good questions to start the conversation: What are your goals? How can I help you stay accountable? Are there specific skills you’d like to learn? What are some projects you’d like to work on? What’s blocking your progress?

We encourage participants to schedule regular check-ins afterward — by phone, email, Slack, whatever works — to discuss progress and work through roadblocks. Just come up with a schedule that suits you both and stick to it.

IRE’s mentorship program is meant for building skills, not necessarily for advancing careers. Participants should focus on working through reporting problems rather than strictly networking or job-seeking.

Discussions between mentors and mentees should be confidential unless both parties agree otherwise.

Tips for mentors

  • Listen actively. Your role is to help your mentee define and achieve their goals, not to dictate them.
  • Keep the war stories to a minimum. Career anecdotes can be useful to illustrate a point, but you’re not here to impress anyone.
  • Be proactive. Sometimes, your mentee will be hesitant to “bother” you with “minor” questions. Check in with them regularly: How are you coming along on your project? Is there anything I can help you with? Etc. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage your mentor to contact you if they need help.
  • Meet them where they are. Mentees come to this program with varying degrees of experience and knowledge. Set realistic expectations and work with them at their level.
  • You’re not a therapist. Keep the focus on work problems, not life problems.

Tips for mentees

  • Respect your mentor’s time, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your mentor wants to help you succeed! In addition to regular check-ins, you should feel comfortable reaching out to your mentor to ask for help on specific problems as they arise.
  • Don’t expect your mentor to write your story/pitch your editor/file your FOIA. Your mentor is there to help guide your work, not do it for you.
  • Expect to be challenged. The goal of this program is to help you learn and grow as a journalist. This will mean stretching your wings a little.

Conduct yourself professionally

Participants must adhere to the IRE Principles:

Investigative Reporters & Editors is committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of race, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, appearance or religion.

IRE supports vigorous debate and welcomes disagreement, while maintaining a civil and respectful community. Discriminatory or harassing behavior is not permitted.

IRE may take any action it deems appropriate to deal with those who violate our principles, including exclusion from our events, forums, listservs and the organization itself.

This code of conduct covers all participants in IRE events and is in effect the entire time from the beginning until the end of our conferences. During conferences, we will publicize a contact email, in addition to making staff and IRE board members easily identifiable, with badges that identify themselves as such, so you know whom to contact if you see or experience an issue.

If you feel threatened or in immediate jeopardy during an IRE event, you should call building security by calling 0 from a house phone, or local police by dialing 911.

During the scheduled program, concerns can be brought to the attention of IRE staff or board members in person. Contact information to reach an IRE board member outside of the scheduled program can be found here: