Susan Phillips recalls Logan Symposium
Storified by CPIJ· Wed, May 15 2013 12:50:41
Susan Phillips of WHYY and StateImpact Pennsylvania attended the 7th Annual Reva & David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium last month at U.C. Berkely. Phillips shares her experiences below.
Logan Symposium – Investigative Reporting ProgramThe Logan Symposium brings together top journalists, law enforcement and government officials to address the critical issues in investiga…
The Logan Symposium allowed me to meet with and hear from some of the most innovative and experienced investigative journalists in the country. In light of events in Boston, perhaps the most memorable conversation I had was with Trevor Aaronson from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, and author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.
Aaronson’s book looks at a number of terrorism cases prosecuted across the country that involved using undercover informants. And how the FBI encouraged thousands of these informants to infiltrate Muslim communities, and plan terrorist attacks funded by the FBI.
In a conversation after his panel discussion, he said this strategy wouldn’t stop any lone individual from carrying out a destructive attack on their own. This is what appears to have happened in the Boston Marathon case. His book points out the flaws in our terror defense system, and it required time, commitment and detailed reporting.
Another theme of the conference that stood out to me is the issue of protecting sources. The panel discussions that touched on this subject did something I’ve never seen at a journalism conference, actually put sources themselves on the agenda and hear from them what it’s like to be on the other side. In this case, strong warnings were issued about how easy it is to reveal a source through electronic and telephone communication. The advice was to always meet in person with any source who needs strict anonymity.
In the final workshop, the “State of Investigative Journalism” focused on the need for collaboration among different entities. The idea is to augment distribution, which would get investigative pieces a wider audience and have more impact.
As part of a collaborative project myself, I found this discussion fascinating. Basically, collaboration is difficult, and everyone needs to come to the table recognizing what the other partners bring. And of course, perhaps the most difficult task is meeting the needs of each partner. The folks who seem to be the most committed to this are Frontline and Univision.
In terms of some practical advice to use immediately, ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller gave a short talk on “data scrapping.” It’s too complicated to get into here, and it’s not something reporters would be able to do. But it’s good to know that a web programmer could grab lots of great hidden information for any data-driven story.
Also, here’s some websites mentioned that all reporters could use:
FOIA Machine helps you organize and track your various state and federal public records requests: foiamachine.org
FOIA Machine: AboutFOIA Machine is an open source platform that empowers citizens and journalists to easily prepare, file and track multiple public record r…
Timeflow is a tool that helps illustrate story timelines: reporterslab.org/timeflow/
TimeFlowDescription: TimeFlow is a visual tool for reporters looking to organize and analyze historical data on long-term stories. Developed by v…
And here’s an example of how timeflow was used by ProPublica:
Timeline: How One Blast Affected Five SoldiersExplore the events leading up to and following a Jan. 16, 2009, rocket attack at Camp Liberty, in Baghdad, Iraq, that left five soldiers …
Susan Phillips | StateImpact PennsylvaniaAn unknown amount of natural gas escaped into the atmosphere Saturday from a pipeline owned by Atlas Energy. A considerable amount of nat…
CPIJ’s 2103 sponsorship program supported Phillips’ participation in the conference.
CPIJ to offer conference sponsorship program in 2013We’re pleased at the Center for Public Interest Journalism to continue to provide support for qualified local journalists to attend profe…