On June 14, I was in Houston with thousands of journalists from news organizations across the country for the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference. I also attended a conference hosted by the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) the day prior.
The IRE conference was a four-day event at the Marriott Marquis Houston hotel. Speakers included broadcast and print journalists from organizations including NBC, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe.
The IRE sessions I attended were full of information and resources that will help BenitoLink better inform San Benito County residents. Discussion focused on different methods of conducting investigative reporting on education, charities and nonprofits, housing, and government.
Reporters and editors from other states discussed some of the same issues San Benito County faces, such as special education and housing, as well as the diminishing transparency of government agencies, whether intentional or not.
For example, one reporter received guidance on how to investigate a tip that a school district in her area allowed failing students to advance to the next grade level because there was no room for them to repeat the year.
Speakers at the INN conference on June 13 gave presentations about their nonprofit projects, funding and the importance of a diverse newsroom. As Maynard Institute Co-Executive Director Martin Reynolds said at the conference, “diversity is trust.” His speech covered how a diverse newsroom can help cross-check and minimize bias, leading to more reliable journalism.
Reynolds identified five main biases, also referred to as fault lines: race, class, gender, generation and geography. He said he did not include politics and religion because those beliefs can change over time.
To illustrate how fault lines can be important, and potentially life-threatening, Reynolds asked the audience which was more deadly: a category three hurricane with a masculine name or a category two hurricane with a feminine name. While most people answered category three, Reynolds said it was actually the category two, because when people heard the feminine name they associated it with a more passive, less dangerous hurricane so they implemented fewer safety measures, resulting in more deaths.
In another session, INN gathered all rural nonprofit news organizations together, where the discussion centered on the challenges faced by small staffs covering a broad array of topics affecting their communities.