Investigative Reporters & Editors has posted on its website materials for six of the 26 panels at its session Jan. 24. We're hopeful of a lot more. No contact info is available for attendees, a giant info hole.

The “Watchdog Workshop” of IRE was held at the City University of New York Graduate School of Education, West 40th st. and Seventh ave.

Two talks are of particular interest to PR people—how NYT Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Walt Bogdanich and David Barstow ply their trade.

Both talked of techniques for getting a “foot in the door” and getting story subjects to talk without themselves revealing what they knew.

Don’t be afraid to come across as a “country bumpkin,” said Bogdanich. Barstow said he tries to mimic the low-keyed TV character Columbo, created by Peter Falk.

We found of thousands of words of coverage last week of the two talks compiled by Lam Thuy Vo and Joanna Kao of Al Jazeera that were on the first IRE website page. They are still on the site in the public area but are not as easy to find. They are at the end of the “We’ve got you covered” section of the site  for the Jan. 24 meeting under notes compiled by Lam Thuy Vo. The IRE site currently says “no tipsheets” or presentations have been uploaded for B&B since the speakers themselves provide such materials. Executive director Mark Horvit said audiotapes of speakers will not be made available unless they are of sufficient quality.

PR people need to know the stratagems, ploys and even tricks of reporters who seek to interview their bosses and clients.

The unedited audiotapes of Barstow and Bogdanich should be made available.

Registrants’ Info Not Provided

Previous Overseas Press Club
(Photo: Jon Gingerich)

The Jan. 24 meeting, attracting nearly 250 mostly young people, lacked what used to be the sine qua non of such meetings—a printout of the attendees including all their contact points.

PR Society of America, although it ditched its printed members’ directory in 2005 and does not publish its list of Assembly delegates (except to the delegates), continues to supply a PDF of the 1,500+ registrants at its national conferences. About one-third of them still list e-mails and most of the rest give phones, addresses or Twitter handles.

One purpose of a meeting or conference is the chance to see who the other attendees are and network during and after the conference.

The Society used to print out this database of 45 pages or so and place it in the conference bags that are given to all attendees. However, registrants now have to print out the list themselves. The Society says it needs to save money but at the same time it can afford to print and mail 32,000 copies of 24-page Tactics each month and 22,000 copies of its glossy Strategist each quarter.

New York Slighted by J Orgs

The CUNY J School, where the IRE meeting was held, covers two floors at 219 W. 40th St. between Seventh and Eighth aves. Facilities have the feel of the city room of a major newspaper. There large rooms for meetings as well as many individual classrooms and a well-stocked library.  Computer terminals abound.

The J School is offering a one-semester course in entrepreneurial journalism leading to an advanced certificate at a cost of $4,910 including tuition and fees.

That IRE, founded in 1975 and based at the University of Missouri School of J, had a meeting in New York is a major departure from its usual out-of-town haunts. The last national conference of IRE in New York was in 2000.

IRE met in Boston in 2012, in San Antonio in 2013 and will meet in San Francisco June 26-29. IRE records show 724 members in New York which gives it the largest single city membership in the group. Second is D.C. with 637 members. Chicago has 236 members and L.A., 128.

NY Had Overseas Press Club Bldg.

npcNew York, although home to four dailies, many consumer and trade magazines, broadcast and TV networks, and much of the advertising/PR industry and related service companies, does not have a press/PR center such as Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club.

It did have a major press/PR center until the late 1960s—the 11-story Overseas Press Club building at 54 W. 40th st. OPC was embezzled out of about $300,000 by its CPA/manager Frank O’Rourke and lost the building. O’Rourke committed suicide the day before he was to report to police.

OPC at its peak had 3,200 members. Local press and PR people totaled 1,545, outnumbering foreign correspondents who totaled 1,599.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, based on Seventh ave. a few blocks from the CUNY J School, has a treasury of $15 million+.

ProPublica, the independent journalist group founded in 2007 by Herbert and Marion Sandler, former CEOs of Golden West Financial, has about $10 million in annual revenues, nearly half of it from the Sandlers.

They sold the bank to Wachovia in 2006 for $25 billion, netting $2.48B. Wachovia, beset with many shaky home loans, was sold almost immediately to Wells Fargo. The Sandlers hired Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, as editor-in-chief. Steiger, who has also served as chair of CPJ, retired in 2012.

PR Society of America seems to have an allergy to New York. Its last national conference in the city was in 2004 and no further conferences are planned in the city in even though the chapter is the biggest in a single city with 798 members. D.C. has 1,150 chapter members and 1,500 members in its area which includes Northern Virginia and part of Maryland. No. 2 is Georgia with about 900 members but the chapter covers the entire state.

New York, whose ad/PR and media community dwarfs that of any other city and which had record attendance of 4,000 in 2004, was skipped over by the Society in favor of Philadelphia in 2007 and 2013 and Washington, D.C., 2010 and 2014.

IRE, CPJ, ProPublica and the PR Society could easily fund a midtown New York press and PR facility if they decided to work together instead of remaining in their own silos.

J Schools Are Thriving But Have Critics

Attendance at J schools is robust, according to an article in Forbes,  although writer Lauren Streib thinks it’s an “unlikely boom” considering the distressed state of media.

“What are all these people going to do for a living?” she asks.

Journalist Richard Sine, who wrote on Huffpost that studying journalism is akin to taking up “blacksmithing bloodletting and steamship design,” theorizes the only students who can afford $35K to $75K for grad school (with room & board) are children of rich families.

Media skills can be picked up in a few hours on the job, he feels. J school students are apparently going there for the “contacts,” he says.

Harper’s columnist Thomas Frank penned a blast at J schools in December 2010, saying, “This might be the worst time ever to attend a J school.” He feels that almost no one in J’s high places
“has an idea for tackling the big problems in a way that stands a chance of preserving journalism.”

The cover story on the Columbia J School in the July 1993 New Republic by Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker), titled “J School Ate My Brain,”  is a searching piece that should be read by all those in journalism and PR.

Lewis doubts that journalism, which rides herd on institutions, can be learned in an institution. The best journalists, he says, “are almost the antithesis of professionals. The horror of disrepute, the preternatural respect for authority, and the fear of controversy that so benefit the professional are absolute handicaps for a journalist.”

Joseph Nocera, NYT columnist, told Lewis: "There is nothing I regret more" than going to the J School at Boston University for two years. “Two years that could have been spent actually learning something were instead spent at a glorified trade school -- I still recall with a shudder the two weeks spent learning how to write an obit -- except that this trade school cannot possibly teach you what you need to learn, because it is impossible to re-create the journalism environment in the classroom."

IRE has been told that its members are invited to make use of the 700-volume PR/media library  at the O’Dwyer Co. without charge. Special access codes to 13 years of have been set up for the 4,780 members.