Charlie Haldeman

The digital home of the genuine rural eclectic.

IRE2018 Notes & Quotes

This page was updated throughout the IRE Conference. -ch


There are 56 Raycom Media employees in Orlando this week for the 2018 Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference.


Random notes scattered about:

Chris Blades – WAFB – presented OBS how-to. OBS is open-source (free) and powerful software for streaming, screen recording, among other tasks. WAFB uses daily.

Natalia Martinez – WAVE- presented story on naughty detective.

Look at WAVE3… the Animated bug alternates between the WAVE logo and “avail on amazon firetv” logo. Likely Newsticker.  Can it be replicated in Brandnet?

Raycom’s Megan Luther talked about a story involving a frog race?  Yes, frogs. (I’m still looking for the link to the story.

When investigating, search the IRE tip sheets as you work through the story.  Some of these go back to the 80’s and they (should be) easily searchable.

Speaking of tip sheets, here’s an example on the site regarding social media and digging for data. is a database of public records requests. Here’s a query from Waco:

A FOIA idea is to ask for a copy of the city’s check register. How much does a city spend on things like the plastic bags for dog poop? You might be surprised at what you find.

Usual objection from cities: “What do you want that for?  What are you looking for?”

“We don’t know what we’re looking for.  We just want to see it.”  -you’re under no obligation to give a reason for your open records requests. -Jennifer Dale WCSC-TV is a site that mines news stories.

STORY IDEA: Which law firms are making the most money suing the state of South Carolina?  – Jennifer Dale as WCSC-TV

MARKETING IDEA: Make Lee Zurik part of YOUR local team… put his bio up on the site and photoshop him in your Mt. Rushmore images…


Rachel DePompa – WWBT Richmond NBC 12 did a follow-up to License to Pill and localized it.  They ran Lee’s story and 5pm and the local version at 6pm.


Digital idea: Add SNIPES to stories that drives people to OTT. WWBT Richmond does this.

Nick Ochsner from WBTV figured out a way to pull research from an energy company to investigate the use of coal ash. 

“We’re going to do an interview for this story.  You’re welcome to schedule a time with me to go on camera or I will determine a time that we’ll go on camera.” -Nick Ochsner’s approach to getting someone to do a sit-down interview.

STORY IDEA: What research projects are out there and are there conflicts of interest?


C.J. LeMaster, Chief Investigative Reporter show & tell: JPS Boyd Elementary sexual assault allegations

2nd story from C.J.: A deep dive into Hinds County (Mississippi) homicides. Much of the graphics treatments were created in AfterEffects.

Raycom’s Megan Luther returns to share Favorite Investigative Tools…

Searching Facebook: Facebook Graph Search

Get it out of PDF: Cometdocs is a free application with some premium features.  Premium is free to current IRE members.

Monitor a website: You can set a monitor on a site for changes. visualping

Boardreader deals with FORM990’s

The one word journalists should add to Twitter searches that you probably haven’t considered:    MY    It puts you in the perspective of a witness, a first-hand experience.

GEOLOCATORS: search in google a particular location (in maps). Once you have the red dot, the lat/long coordinates are in the URL. Copy the coords from the URL and paste into twitter search.  Expand the area with a code for distance in the form of km (not miles).

Other fun sites: is updated every day with federal activity.  Want to find out if someone evaded income taxes? You can find it on this site.

EXIF Viewer/Tineye to check validity of photos

You can also copy a file name into google image search to check the origin of an image

Open Data Network

Shaley Sanders KCBD shows off a group of elderly residents who protested rising rent costs at a senior apartment complex.

Shaley’s tipster told her she “saved her life,” and that she was preparing to kill herself because she had no where else to turn. Shaley says remember the impact of our work.

Lee Zurik talked about partners of ours:


Knight Foundation


New initiative: 

Cecilia Hanley – Raycom Digital HUB – Digital Content Director

The former “Online News Hub” is now part of the Digital Content Center – working with Southern/City Weekend.

Kiran Chawla – WAFB Baton Rouge show & tell: Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office contracts and questionable spending:

Story angle idea: When a PIO or other person refuses an interview via email, include that email graphic as part of the story.  In Kiran’s case, “We asked the Mayor’s office for an on-camera interview and within minutes, we received this response, “No.” (complete with the emails on screen.)

Another story angle: The Mayor’s office sent an email to the station saying they would conduct an interview with any WAFB reporter other than Kiran. The anchor read the story that included this development— and stated that it is the station’s policy not to allow subjects to choose who conducts interviews. The response from the public was overwhelmingly supportive of including this in their story.

LOOKING AHEAD at the conference and advice from the veterans:

Lee Zurik encourages:  UNDER PRESSURE SESSION with Stephen Stock

Rachel dePompa: 60 story ideas in 60 seconds

“IRE is the place to learn how to do Excel well.” -Lee

Share your own one-sheets and training modules with the IRE organization.

Rate all the sessions you attend and be honest.



June 14, 2018

Raycom Media CEO Pat LaPlatney announces the launch of Investigate TV for OTT devices.

InvestigateTV is the result of a dynamic collaboration involving a local broadcaster, a non-profit newsroom and a top journalism school, all invested in the importance of quality investigative work.  The app will showcase longer-form reporting from Raycom Media as well as a select group of partners including ProPublica, News21 at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, and NerdWallet.

InvestigateTV highlights in-depth stories that matter most to viewers.  Raycom Media Chief Investigative Reporter Lee Zurik says theInvestigateTV team is both a watchdog and a resource for consumers.

The announcement of the launch was made at the 2018 Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference in Orlando.

L-R: RVP Tim Ingram, WVUE ND Mikel Schaefer, WVUE AND Kristen Palestinian, WMC ND Greg Phillips await the announcement of Investigate TV amid a flurry of technical difficulties with the hotel AV system.


Waypoint – HOA fees nonpayment?

Network expert list?

Police use-of-force findings: how many in the community?

Lawsuits involving police depts. the city Detroit paid out $19 Million?

538 – organization that’s part of ABC News. Most interested in collaborations.

Scams on sites like including secret shopper scams –

Guardianship exploitation and fraud, abuse – John Oliver did a similar piece.

There is no federal oversight on this issue. Only state issue. Families say the courts work against them. Principal bad person faces 270 counts of exploitation of senior citizens. In Las Vegas. When people are assigned a guardian, they often have fewer rights than prison inmates.

Question: Does there need to be national oversight of probate courts? Georgia: judges only need minimum qualifications to be a judge.

Michigan- judges were assigning their lawyer friends as “public administrators” to be guardians of people in nursing homes.

Raleigh-Durham Station has a story of a 24-year-old mentally challenged man who was taken from his parents because its claimed they waited too long to commit him. His mother is a psych nurse.

Investigate elder abuse inside the guardianship system.

How many cases related to elder abuse are open in a particular jurisdiction?

Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has created a special unit to address elder abuse.

Opioid epidemic spurs guardianship of victims who are confined to nursing homes.

Done well in print, but not yet in broadcast: foster children and the amount of drugs they’re prescribed. Trisha Thompson from ESPN, formerly of WMAR-TV

How does ESPN operate? They would love to collaborate on HVC sports stories. Even old stories could be shared and re-told or told in more depth.

Diploma mills: still out there and in operation.

Baby boomers = “The Silver Tsunami”

IRE began when a reporter at a Phoenix newspaper got too close to the truth and was killed in a car bombing.

“You can kill the reporter, but you can’t kill the story.”

The mangled Pinto car is on display at the Newseum in Washington.

Look at ways racial disparity and discrimination impact personal finances. What about technology?

Payday loans and bail bondsmen

Doctors pay story? 100,000 cases of the pelvic mesh lawsuits. The plastic in the mesh breaks down and causes complications . Large tort issue pending in places like Pennsylvania.


When the world comes to town: Managing large-scale breaking news stories

-develop sources before the big story

-mass shootings will likely happen again. Prepare now

-Feds and locals don’t always like each other. Use this to your advantage

-think like an outsider. Be on East Coast time (???)

-go over old territory. In Austin, after the bombing suspect killed himself- reporters returned to people and places that were an early part of the story and managed to get new info that never would have gotten had they not returned.

-make friends with network booking producers. They know everybody. Best to form the relationship when it’s slow. Not during a breaking event.

-“Your most difficult assignment” Orlando Sentinel. Pulse nightclub shooting.

-get as many names and numbers as you can.

-start an excel spreadsheet and keep track of conversations

-Be prepared to face anger. Stay compassionate.

-Remind your local connections you’ll be here long after the tent city is gone.

-Stay in close proximity to the agency you’re covering. Don’t leave.

-don’t forget about the medical examiners.

-ask for interviews you couldn’t get early on. Reporter got interview with trauma staff a year after the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

-Recognize that you might not get interviews for reasons you’ll never understand.

-keep track of all known survivors and responders if you can get their identities

– @Naseemmiller Orlando Sentinel

– Covering Sutherland Springs by Silvia Foster-Frau San Antonio Express-News

-Set newsroom policies in advance: using the name of the gunman… using images and info from social media…

-ON THE SCENE: the media circus: managing intimate interviews… Explain your role/mission… be the “good ones”… think big picture, look for alternate angles… Scout social media for clues

-Slack, group text, group emails -pick your method.

-Equipment: chargers, batteries, clothes, food, water.

-be transparent with sources: ask how they wish you/media covered their story. ((But don’t promise angles. Just listen))

-embed yourself in the community.

-Take care of yourself. Calming activities. Talk about your experiences. Find or create your own support group.

– @silviaElenaFF

-Vegas shooting: It’s almost 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 1, 2017

-PULSEPOINT Online dispatch logs.

– @rachelcrosby

– use Twitter to describe scenes. Reply to yourself when appropriate.

-continue to reach out to sources. Don’t forget during the chaos.

– sourcing. Establish your contacts.

– make sure everyone gets the memo

-Designate a delegator: Avoid confusion for people on the ground.

-Go bags: Food, Water, relevant supplies.

-Days and weeks to come… when it’s hard to think? Look for examples, ask for help. Request those records!

-Debrief. Compare notes. Share constructive feedback.

-Address the mental toll.

-Look back on the progress.

-Follow up on employee care long after the incident(s) for your people (mental toll)


Technology and Tools Fast Track: Fast and furious fact-finding with Facebook.

1- Get an Android burner. Walmart for the cheapest.

2- Create a Gmail and add one contact.

3- create a Facebook account and select people you may know.

Aos Ali — Facebook.

How to find hidden friends:

Go to their profile pic- look at the people who LOVED the photo.

-Everyone on Facebook has a unique ID number. ???? to find someone’s unique ID number.

-finding common names:

Example: search “people named Tom Winter” and click see all.

To find URL: ????

Go to NBC News Facebook page

Find NBC’s unique ID number.

If you combine formulas, end the address with /intersect

Search: “Friends of NBC News employees named Tom Winter”

-Amazing formulas: research with Henk van Ess to find members of closed groups.

-HOW to find Russian FOLLOWERS of U.S. Senators:

-Revenge Porn victims and finding their aggressors

-Most important formula:


-New tool introduced:

Who posted what?

auto language translator…

Also, snagit

-find deleted profiles:

-How to find out details of photos on Facebook:

Look for clues in images like signs, phone numbers, etc.

FULL Presentation:

Dutch-born Henk van Ess ( does some fast and furious fact-checking in Facebook, using examples inspired by recent news stories such as the Manchester bombing, Las Vegas shooting, Jihadi John, the Russian investigation and Cambridge Analytica.


Broadcast Track: Visual Storytelling: a new perspective

Brendan Keefe – WXIA Atlanta is a ONE-MAN-BAND Investigative Reporter.

Brendan uses at least 4 cameras on every shoot.

He uses 2 Sony A7R2 cameras, another Sony (didn’t catch the model), GoPro, iPhone 6. Wireless mics. 2 small lights.

-learn to sync video from multiple cameras by matching the audio waveforms. In Edius, it MAY BE F8.

“To steal from one, is plagiarism. To steal from many, is research.”

Andy Miller – Executive Producer, Raycom Media Investigative Unit

“License to Pill” –

Beginning – Middle – End

Grab the viewers attention

Building graphics –

Use After Effects and Motion.

Progress the composition, but don’t overload the screen.

Pacing: Don’t rush

Multi-cam: seamless transitions and be transparent… work to include a two-shot to show the interview was not manipulated.

Lighting: f-stop lower for the background. Light for texture too.

Moments Matter Most.

Capture them on camera. Identify them in your video. Showcase the story.

Reward the viewer: if a story is good, the length is secondary.

Keefe: uses a 360 camera on a pole. The camera makes the pole disappear.

The Rylo 360 camera has 2 lenses. The pole can be placed in the blind spot between the 2 lenses. Retails for $499. 😳 Avail at Best Buy. Keefe recommends using in any unscheduled interview. Another tool in your kit.

Andy Miller: multi-camera angles and shots like what we see on David Letterman’s “My Guest needs no introduction”

Anna Hewson – KUSA Denver doesn’t agree about the traditional use of multi-camera. Encourages the attempt at new techniques.

Andy: “There are times where an innovation is distracting to the viewer. There’s a fine line and we have to be careful at making sure we enhance and advance the story.”


Broadcast track: 50 years of 60 Minutes

What went wrong with Lara Croft’s Benghazi story?

-the trusted source outright lied to producers and they didn’t fully vet the claims.

-60 Minutes producers receive tons of story pitches and tips from people who are liars every day. They all have an agenda. Must make sure you know their agenda by the end of the pitch and filter. Consider the facts after all the BS is filtered.

-60 Minutes Correspondent Bill Whitaker has to have immense trust in his producers – right down to the specific wording of questions in interviews as well as scripts.

“I was blown away by the process. The process is intense.” -Bill Whitaker’s reaction upon joining 60 Minutes.

During the process, every change from the bottom – up must be checked by the supervising producer immediately to ensure the context of the facts and story structure remains intact.


Broadcast track: Investigating Breaking News

Go further than an expert database: Create checklists related to specific stories (school shootings, for example) that include a list of FOIA requests and government/regulatory websites to search for records.

Finding nuggets: protected court records… real estate transactions… etc.

START A TIMELINE: In the case of shooter at Trump Doral, the timeline starts with the shooter’s father’s birthday and includes contacts and links to related-records. All contained in a shareable document for your team. Also includes people to go back and talk to long after the initial story has died down.

KHOU – Don’t use shooter’s name without at least 3 independent verifications. But start the background process immediately.


Awards lunch: That’s a lot of chicken dinners.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jim Polk speaks after accepting an IRE Founders award


Broadcast Deep Dive 3

Stephen Stock – NBC Bay Area

Sarah Fitzpatrick – NBC News

Kiran Chiwla – WAFB

The conference center’s audio-visual systems failed once again during this session, but the panel persevered.

Reviewed a series of stories related to the Baton Rouge Mayor.

– Reviewed Dateline special series on the USA Gymnastics scandal

Fitzpatrick once worked for 60 Minutes and had 3 victims come forward, but there were unanswered questions.

Hired by NBC News in Fall 2017 and was asked by her new bosses what she wanted to work on. This story was one she wanted to target.

Fitzpatrick waits to speak to primary subject. She first goes after people the subject trusts.

It took from September 2018 to ??? to finally get the subject on camera.

-show up in person early and ask for help:

“I hear you’re the expert/most knowledgeable/etc., can I get your guidance? Can I get your help?”

“Can I meet you in person?”

-If they say, “I’m busy,” offer to walk/ride/go with them.

-“Can you help me solve this mystery?”

-“Pick up the phone late.” – vast majority of the story gathering (USA Gymnastics) happened after 8 p.m.

-Keep sources updated throughout the process. Don’t reveal your reporting process, but you can ask their perspective on tidbits.

-Over-prepare and know the details:

-write an overview before you shoot a frame

-keep a running list of questions/themes/visual ideas as you report

-Type up ALL your notes in a searchable format

-she writes a magazine article style document to outline to prepare


Stephen Stock believes this story could be done in any market: Dangerous Parts: airplane parts that are bogus or unapproved parts. People have been killed as a result.

FAA: Unapproved parts


Excel spreadsheets

Data doesn’t always come in properly formatted Excel spreadsheets. Before you can analyze data in Excel, it first needs to be in a usable format. Data types, delimiters and fixed-width columns all work together to make the import process as smooth as possible.

(Will attach tip sheet later)


Excel 3: Filtering and Pivot tables


A look at spreadsheet filtering and the awesome power of pivot and how to use it to analyze your dataset in minutes rather than hours.

(Tip sheet be uploaded later)


That’s a wrap. Great conference and lots of takeaways.

IRE2019 will be in Houston.


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