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The New England First Amendment Coalition provides the three-day intensive training course on freedom of information laws and investigative techniques each year to 25 of the region’s most promising journalists. It will be held Nov. 16-18 in Dedham, Mass.
Kaiser has served as vice president of the Sentinel since 1997 and under his leadership the paper won Pulitzer Prizes for Local Reporting in 2008 and 2010. It has been a Pulitzer finalist four times since 2003 and recently won awards including The Worth Bingham Prize, the George Polk Award and a Scripps Howard Award for Investigative Reporting.
In a 2009 speech at the University of Georgia, Kaiser explained why watchdog journalism is vital to the profession’s health: “To have a future, we believe at the Journal Sentinel we must do more than just report what happened,” he said. “We have to explain why with expertise and go deeper with investigative and enterprise reporting that is relevant to our community. One way we do this is to create a newsroom culture that encourages us to be the public’s watchdogs, holding public officials and institutions accountable.”
Joining Kaiser at the institute is a roster of esteemed faculty including:
- Carol Leonnig | The Washington Post Leonnig worked as part of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning team of reporters covering the U.S. National Security Agency’s spying program. She also received a George Polk Award in 2013 for a series of stories that led to bribery and corruption charges against the then-governor of Virginia.
- Anna Schecter | NBC News Schecter is the recipient of multiple national Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and a George Polk Award for her reporting on rape and sexual assault on Peace Corps volunteers.
- Megan Twohey | Reuters An investigative reporter based in New York, Twohey was a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year for the series The Children Exchange, an investigation into underground markets within the United States for adoptive children.
- Michael Kirk | PBS An award-winning investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker for the PBS program “Frontline,” Kirk’s recent work includes “Losing Iraq,” which takes a hard look at how the United States blundered into the war and the likely effects of withdrawal, and “League of Denial” about the NFL’s failure to respond effectively to the tragic consequences of head trauma suffered by countless players.
- David DesRoches | Darien Times Named Reporter of the Year by the New England Newspaper & Press Association in 2013, DesRoches also won this year the Education Writer’s Association’s top prize for his investigation into special education in Darien, Conn.
The 25 journalism fellows will be selected from among applicants representing print, broadcast and online news organizations throughout the six states. The deadline for applications is October 3. The 25 fellows will be announced mid-October. Applications and other materials can be accessed here. You can also find information on last year’s institute here.
“We are anxious to help this year’s fellows work on their investigative reporting skills,” said Tom Fiedler, president of the NEFAC. “The education given during these three days really provides a shot in the arm to not only our fellows but their entire newsrooms.”
Here is a sample of this year’s programming:
- Common Pitfalls in Accessing Documents Through FOI Requests Led by journalists with personal experience obtaining public records, this panel will help fellows navigate the challenges of accessing public information.
- Staying Out of Legal Trouble: Issues of Privacy and Defamation Several of the region’s most esteemed media attorneys will describe the most common legal mistakes made by journalists and how to avoid them.
- Federal FOIA Requests A hands-on workshop for fellows to learn how to best draft FOIA requests and how to best respond to denials.
- Basic/Advanced Database Analysis Fellows will learn how to use database technology to analyze publicly available data and information obtained from FOI requests.
The institute “touched on so many different issues that I did not leave thinking there was anything missed,” said one former fellow. Said another, “All killer, no filler — well worth my time and I would recommend it to anyone.”
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to all our supporters who help make this institute happen each year,” said Rose Cavanagh, NEFAC’s executive director. “Of particular importance are our sponsors, faculty members and the many NEFAC board members who volunteer their time to the next generation of investigative reporters.”
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.