Watchdoggin’: Top notch reporters & editors share investigative journalism tips for ethnic media


This weekend the nonprofit Investigative Reporters & Editors, Inc., a grassroots organization devoted to improving the quality of investigative journalism, brought professional journalists from the New York Times, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Wisconsin State Journal to Minneapolis for a two-day conference and workshop. With partners New American Media the Twin Cities Daily Planet and the Twin Cities Media Alliance, IRE provided workshops and networking sessions focused on strengthening watchdog journalism, and building coalitions, among local ethnic media.

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It’s not often that I have the chance to be trained by professional, working reporters and editors from nationally recognized, Pulitzer Prize winning newspapers. For a nominal fee of $25, which included lunch and a year’s membership to IRE, I was practically obligated to go.

I’m glad I did.

Though this post in mainly informative concerning the event, In future posts I will be sharing tips on cultivating sources (both data and people), following paper trails, and the one thing you must know to do effective investigative reporting, or blogging. Please subscribe to my feed, subscribe to my email updates by filling out your email in the form in the right-hand column and clicking “subscribe,”: or bookmark this post, and check back for articles covering these topics and more.

Sandy Close, Director of New American Media From the opening address of keynote speaker Sandy Close, Director and Executive Editor of New American Media, I could tell I was surrounded by people who believed passionately in the importance of ethnic media, and the watchdog role of journalism. Close has founded and grown several ethnic news networks, and won a McArthur Fellowship in 1995. She spoke of the importance of ethnic media to mainstream media and her optimism for the future. During the networking lunch, she spoke again about her vision for the future of Minnesota’s ethnic media, offering her three main points to build a strong ethnic media alliance. I will also explore these points in a later post.

Attending along with me and other freelance writers who have worked for ethnic and minority media in the Twin Cities, were Marco Fernandez Landoni, Editorial Director of La Prensa de Minnesota, Edwin Okong’o, Editor of Mishale, and several writers from the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, a publication now in its 75th year and the state’s oldest minority owned business.

Workshop presenters included:

* David Donald: the training director for IRE and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Research. A teacher and award-winning reporter in his own right, Donald oversaw the CAR and research programs at the Savannah Morning News in Georgia.

* Ron Nixon, New York Times reporter, speaking Ron Nixon: Projects Editor at the New York Times’ CAR team assigned to the newspaper’s business desk and Washington Bureau, Nixon was CAR Editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Nixon also worked as an investigative reporter at The Roanoke Times.

* Andy Hall: Covering education at the Wisconsin State Journal, where he also served as investigative and projects reporter from 1991 to 206, Hall mentored La Comunidad, a Spanish-language newspaper in Madison. Hall has received over 30 investigative, public service, financial, deadline and education journalism honors.

* Mary Jo Webster: The CAR reporting editor for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Webster works on daily and long-term stories, develops interactive Web applications and provides CAR training for reporters and editors.

* Ruben Rosario: A columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Rosario writes primarily about criminal justice and public safety issues. Since joining the paper in 1991, he has worked as day city editor, special assignment writer and team leader for public safety. A graduate of Fordham University, he has won many awards for his work at the Pioneer Press and the New York Daily News.

Christopher Pommier ( is a citizen journalist in Minneapolis. He also writes poetry and works as an immigration case manager at a small downtown law firm.