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FOI Institute

Applications Open for New England First Amendment Institute

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Twenty-five of New England’s most promising journalists will learn the latest investigative and database reporting techniques and public records access skills from some of the country’s best journalists and First Amendment attorneys at the third annual New England First Amendment Institute, from Sunday, September 29 to Tuesday, October 1 in Dedham, MA.

Among the speakers will be David Barstow of the New York Times, who this spring was awarded his third Pulitzer Prize in the last nine years, his most recent for an expose that Wal-Mart routinely bribed government officials in Mexico for favorable development decisions.

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 August 20. The 25 fellows will be announced the first week of September.

New England First Amendment Institute

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“We are eager to help the Institute fellows enhance their investigative reporting skills and discover new ways to approach freedom of information issues. The focus will be on ferreting out information about how government operates and offering it to a wide audience,” said Mary Jane Wilkinson, President of New England First Amendment Coalition and a retired managing editor of The Boston Globe.

“This annual conference is intense, collegial and designed to help the region’s best reporters incorporate investigative reporting skills into every story they do,” said Walter V. Robinson, distinguished professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a Pulitzer winner in 2003.

Here’s just a sampling of the professionals taking part in the sessions and the range of topics:

  • Keynote speaker Brian McGrory, the editor of the Boston Globe, who will talk about the importance of accountability journalism
  • Alexandra Zayas, Selden Ring Award winner and Pulitzer finalist of the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., for her in-depth probe into unlicensed religious group-homes and government failure to respond to over 165 reports of physical and sexual abuse and neglect
  • Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News investigative correspondent on her Emmy and Murrow Award winning investigation, “Fast and Furious,” which revealed how Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials let guns “walk” into the hands of the Mexican drug cartel
  • Alison Young of USA Today on her award winning investigation of “Ghost Factories,” abandoned sites that leave chemicals in the ground
  • David Jackson of The Chicago Tribune discussing the “Empty Desk Epidemic” in the Chicago public schools of covered up and significant truancy problems
  • Emmy Award winning producer Anna Schecter of NBC and investigative reporter Tim White of WPRI on effective sourcing, the confrontational interview and transitioning to video.

The free workshops will take place at the New England Newspaper and Press Association‘s headquarters in Dedham, MA.  A 2012 fellow had this to say about her experience at the Institute in an evaluation, “All killer, no filler — well worth my time and would recommend it to anyone!” Another participant said that the Institute “touched on so many different issues that I did not leave thinking there was anything I missed. I was thrilled.”

Rosanna Cavanagh, NEFAC’s executive director, said the program is supported by grants from the McLean Contributionship, National Freedom of Information Coalition and sponsorships from New England Society of Newspaper Editors, the Academy of New England Journalists, The Providence Journal Charitable Foundation, The Boston Globe and Sam Adams. “We owe a great debt of gratitude to our supporters and sponsors and wonderful faculty members, especially to the First Amendment lawyers and journalists on NEFAC’s board of directors whose selfless volunteering of their time to train the next generation of investigative reporters makes our Institute possible.”

CONTACT Rose Cavanagh | 401.331.7209 | rosecavanagh.nefac@gmail.com