Each of us could be better at something. Some want to be better runners or parents, while others maybe just want to perfect their golf game.
In the spirit of bettering the newspaper, staff members at The Sheridan Press have participated in at least three trainings in the last several months.
The entire newsroom visited with AP Bureau Chief Jim Clarke recently. We talked about the ongoing struggles members of the media face when trying to do their jobs — uncooperative officials, denied public records requests and even having to resort to spy-like tactics in order to protect sources.
Clarke reiterated what most journalists know, but sometimes forget in the day-to-day hustle. We do not write for our sources. We write for the general public that doesn’t have time to dig deeper into documents requests or attend each public meeting of governing bodies. We write to inform because an informed electorate is essential in our way of life.
In January, I attended the Wyoming Press Association annual winter convention. Surrounded by like-minded journalists, I had the opportunity to bounce ideas off others in the profession. I also learned that every newspaper, it seems, has fought some form of a public records or open meetings battle — sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
We exchanged tips and methods of obtaining records to which everyone should have access. We also talked about using data to report on trends and big-picture issues.
Then, just this weekend, Press government reporter Hannah Wiest and I went to Laramie to participate in an IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) conference. The nonprofit IRE works to improve the quality of investigative reporting within journalism.
Reporters from across Wyoming and even some from Colorado and other states attended. Speakers wowed us with their accomplishments and provided useful tools to “follow the money.” Many, many websites exist to help journalists and private citizens track campaign donations, government spending and even some nonprofits’ books.
It is exciting and empowering. I’ve said it and will continue to say it — knowledge is power. Hannah and I both left Laramie with a sense of excitement about all of the articles and research Press staff can tackle with the tools IRE armed us with over the weekend. We discussed ideas and timeframes on the drive home (through windy, snowy basins) and like many newspaper reporters bemoaned the ever tightening deadlines and longed for additional staff.
Though the Press newsroom is made up of about a half-dozen full-time reporters when fully staffed, each has a dedication to the pursuit and dissemination of information. We’re all ready and raring to go.