March 18, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation, The Poynter Institute will present “Investigating Local Government on a Budget,” a new three-day conference for learning the tools of investigative reporting — even in newsrooms without resources to undertake large investigations.

The conference will encourage participation from reporters in small and mid-sized newsrooms, teaching them how to hold local government officials accountable at a time when they are cutting vital services. Poynter, a school dedicated to serving journalism in the interest of democracy, will present the conference at its St. Petersburg campus beginning Aug. 29.

“Investigative reporting is critical to good journalism and local reporters need help,” said Poynter President Karen B. Dunlap. “Just as billions of dollars in federal stimulus monies are flowing through local contractors and government agencies, most newsrooms are struggling to cover investigative stories. Poynter is pleased to partner with the McCormick Foundation on this important skills-building conference.”

“The Poynter conference is one of five Specialized Reporting Institutes that we are funding in 2010,” said Clark Bell, the McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program Director. “This project will showcase Poynter’s ability to create useful, intensive and timely training workshops for journalists.”

The decision to fund the conference comes as some newsrooms, in the aftermath of staff reductions, have decided to assign a higher priority to watchdog reporting.

Poynter’s Al Tompkins, an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, will lead the conference, along with investigative reporting experts from around the country. “Some of the best local investigative journalists in the business will join us to teach beat reporters how to ask better questions and think critically about local stories,” Tompkins siad. “We’ll show reporters how to use databases to uncover important stories and to tell engaging multimedia stories on a shoestring.”

Other Poynter faculty will teach in the areas of ethical decision-making, beat reporting and technology. Additionally, portions of the conference will be recorded and made available through Poynter’s News University, the institute’s e-learning portal.

“It is our hope that the conversations we begin at Poynter will last long after the journalists go back to work,” said Tompkins. “We know from past experience that Poynter investigative reporting seminars often produce a support group through which these journalists build a national network and sometimes work on significant stories together, sharing resources and ideas.”

About The Poynter Institute

Poynter trains journalism practitioners, media leaders, educators and citizens in the areas of online and multimedia, leadership and management, reporting, writing and editing, TV and radio, ethics and diversity, journalism education and visual journalism. Poynter’s News University offers newsroom training to journalists and journalism students through interactive e-learning modules and links to other journalism education and training opportunities. Poynter’s Web site is the dominant provider of journalism news, with a focus on business analysis and the opportunities and implications of technology.

About the McCormick Foundation

The McCormick Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening our free, democratic society by investing in children, communities and country. Through its grantmaking programs, Cantigny Park and Golf, museums, and civic outreach program, the Foundation helps build a more active and engaged citizenry. It was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The McCormick Foundation is one of the nation’s largest charities, with more than $1 billion in assets. For more information, please visit


Al Tompkins, faculty,
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Phone: 1-888-POYNTER (1-888-769-6837)

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Jessica brings to the Institute more than 20 years of experience in journalism and public relations. She began her career in broadcasting, working on-air in…
Jessica Blais

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