This year’s Investigative Reporters & Editors conference starts Wednesday in San Francisco, and there are no fewer than nine panels, workshops and master classes on storytelling. Registration is still open for IRE members ($100 for students; $260 for everyone else), but if you miss the conference you can find some materials — audio, video, tip sheets — online later at IRE’s website. For past Storyboard coverage of the conference, see the two-part Kiera Feldman series from 2012. This year’s storytelling speakers and the IRE abstracts:
Speaker: Jacqui Banaszynski, Pulitzer winner and professor, Missouri School of Journalism
Description: Learn to investigate your own writing from the inside out. What are the habits and patterns that power your stories up — or drag them down? You’ll do a diagnostic of your own writing and discover ways to make your stories leaner, cleaner and more compelling.
Speakers: Sarah Cohen, David Donald, Ben Poston
Description: From the first public records request to the final fact-check, keeping the writing in mind will prevent your stories from becoming mind-numbing data dumps. We’ll walk through how to focus your early work on finding the best cases for in-depth reporting; how to keep your data analysis on track while finding your “compared to what?”; and how to draft the data-heavy sections of stories.
Speakers: Anthony DeBarros, Brad Racino, Kate Marymont, Mark Nichols
Description: Design is key to attracting attention, keeping the public engaged and even getting people to do what you ask of them. We’ll look at examples from top newsrooms and share tips and ideas on what you yourself can do to design and present brilliant stories.
Speakers: Joan McClane, Raquel Rutledge, James Neff, Michael Schiller
Description: You’ve found the facts and have hard-edged findings. Now what? This panel shows you how to best exploit your materials to craft engaging investigations through appropriate story structure, proper use of characters, clear writing, and effective use of sound and video.
Speaker: master class with Walt Bogdanich, assistant editor for investigations, New York Times
Description: Three-time Pulitzer winner Walt Bogdanich dissects his classic 2007 toxic pipeline investigation. These special panels are designed to dig deep into narrative arc, structure and character development.
Speaker: Missouri School of Journalism professor Jacqui Banaszynski
Description: Where to start? How to nail that ending? What to put where? Story structure vexes even the most experienced writers. We’ll explore ways to approach your stories as literal but creative structures — story houses built on a solid foundation, with an elegant flow and the most effective use of your material. All the great buildings of the world started with a sound, creative blueprint; you can build cathedrals of information and meaning.
Speaker: Chicago Tribune reporter Sam Roe
Description: Sam Roe, a Pulitzer Prize winner and three-time Pulitzer finalist, shows how to identify the narrative in an investigation, how to flesh it out with reporting and writing, and how to organize it to maximize impact and suspense. He’ll focus on “Deadly Neglect,” a story that started out as a run-of-the-mill nursing home project but gained power when Roe zeroed in on the agonizing ordeal of a 9-year-old boy.
Speaker: Louise Kiernan, career newspaper reporter/editor, Medill School of Journalism associate professor, and incoming editor of Nieman Storyboard.
Description: Pulitzer winner Louise Kiernan will take the audience inside her two-part narrative project “Danger from Above” as part of our “master class” series.
Speakers: John Hillkirk, Alison Young, Alexandra Zayas, Chris Davis
Description: When it comes to investigative projects, storytelling too often takes a back seat to reporting. In this session, two reporter-editor teams will discuss how they worked through the conceptualizing and writing of two recent investigations: “In God’s Name” and “Supplement Shell Game.” They’ll share tips for better collaborative storytelling, techniques for sharpening writing, approaches to storytelling on multiple platforms and building a positive reporter/editor relationship.