Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.
|Purpose||Foster excellence in investigative journalism, which is essential to a free society.|
Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. (IRE) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the quality of journalism, in particular investigative journalism. Formed in 1975, it presents the IRE Awards and holds conferences and training classes for journalists. Its headquarters is in Columbia, Missouri, at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. It is the largest and oldest association of investigative journalism.
After the resignation by President Nixon, eleven journalists met in Reston, Virginia. These journalists hoped, after they conducted poor investigative journalism in during the 1960s and 1970s, to create a national association that could help journalists to produce best practices in the craft. It was in that meeting that Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. was founded. A grant of $3,100 from the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis paid the expenses for the meeting.
During debate over what to call the organization, Les Whitten, one of the journalists attending the meeting, pointed out that a defining characteristic of investigative journalists was a sense of outrage. Someone in the meeting grabbed a dictionary to find synonyms of "out-rage" and came up with "ire," which would work as an acronym for "Investigative Reporters and Editors Group".
The meeting also debated who should and should not be allowed in the upcoming organization. Some of the journalists gathered suggested restricted membership to add prestige to the organization, while others suggested a more open organization to investigative journalists and editors, so even inexperienced journalists could get help from IRE. In the end, the journalists decided for openness. Later in March 1975, writing in a trade magazine to publicize the new organization, Harley Bierce of the Indianapolis Star emphasized that the organization would provide services to any reporter needing assistance on an investigative story. "We want to stress that this won't bean exclusive organization," he wrote. "Good reporters naturally fall into this classification [of investigative reporter]."
After the meeting, a steering committee was created, charged in exploring interest in a national organization for investigative journalism, and to plan a national conference. An executive committee was also formed, composed of Robert Peirce, Ronald Koziol, Paul Williams, Myrta Pulliam, Harley Bierce, Edward O. DeLaney, and Robert Friedly.
IRE was in a delicate position to ask for funds and grants, since a journalist also investigate foundations, even though IRE accepted the Lilly Endowment, created by the founders of Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company. The initial gathering of funds, IRE hoped, would finance 250 journalists and editors to the first national conference of IRE. After a lot of successes and failures in seeking funds, IRE funds attained to more than USD 18,000, but far from the funds needed to financially support financially the journalists and editors of the first conference. The first national conference also had journalists criticizing IRE for taking grants from foundations such as from Lilly, and from publications, even though these publications were restricting funds to their own investigative journalists. Consequently, the members of IRE passed a resolution to take funds only from foundations that "which owe their existence to journalistic enterprise", and educational and research foundations.
The first national conference of IRE was held between June 18-20, 1976, in Indianapolis. More than 300 people attended, including approximately 200 paying participants from 35 states, 30 speakers and 40 students. Workshop topics included the state of the art of investigative journalism, how to manage an investigation, how to work as a team, how to report specific topics such as crime, and how to deal with legal and ethical issues in investigative reporting. The members of IRE also voted to seek funds to establish a resource center at Ohio State University by July 1, 1977. Members also voted for a resolution that called for journalists, editors, and news agencies to end their associations with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or other law enforcement agencies to maintain "American journalistic independence". The members also voted to establish an ethics committee "responsible for raising in a continuing way the ethical questions which confront journalists" and to be "responsible for examining the assumptions that underlie" investigative journalism. The members also voted to establish a committee of broadcast journalists to advise the board of directors of IRE about problems specific to broadcast investigations.
Paul Williams' death in 1976 caused the first dilemma of IRE. Williams had connections to Ohio State University, being a professor there, and had established a working relationship between IRE and the university. The executive committee then decided to find another university for their resource center. In 1978, two proposals came to the IRE board of directors: one from Boston University, and one from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Although the board initially favored Boston, University of Missouri School of Journalism Dean Roy M. Fisher stressed his school's tradition in journalism. The Missouri's proposal also offered free clipping services for IRE, pay the salaries of office staff members, and help IRE with fundraising. In the end, in June 1978, a meeting in Denver by the members of IRE decided unanimously for the University of Missouri.
From 1976 and 1980, the resource center was established in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, hired a permanent staff, founded a publication (IRE Journal), held annual and regional conferences, setup an annual awards program, and adopted a definition of investigative journalism.
In 1976, one of the members, Don Bolles of the Arizona Republic was murdered by a bomb explosion beneath his car. Led by Newsday journalist Robert W. Greene, the Arizona Project team consisted of 38 journalists from 28 newspapers and television stations. They went to Phoenix, Arizona to produce a 23-part series in 1977 exposing widespread corruption in the state.
The NICAR project was founded in 1989, with the aim of assisting journalists with data journalism.
Editor's Note: Investigative Reporters and Editors is the world's largest and oldest association of investigative journalists.
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), [...] defined investigative journalism as "systematic, in-depth, and original research and reporting, often involving the unearthing of secrets, heavy use of public records, and computer assisted reporting, with a focus on social justice and accountability"