One of the benefits of working for a large media company like Gannett — chances to attend workshops and conventions that can be pricy. I finished an application for one of these opportunities last week and wanted to share/save a portion of my entry letter here:

In the last nine months, it’s become clear to me that watchdog journalism goes beyond major packages that take months to produce. We act as watchdogs each Friday by examining government meeting agendas, each time we request records on a construction contract or job search, each time we ask “why?” on behalf of readers who don’t have that opportunity.

Very often, these actions don’t end in a story online or in the paper. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are those of a watchdog.

Attending the IRE conference will improve my ability to produce traditional watchdog work, like the project mentioned above [The application required a project proposal]. Techniques to analyze and organize data effectively, tips on searching for story leads and how to follow through will advance my own reporting ability and enhance the Wausau Daily Herald’s position in the community.

I believe watchdog work that serves as a check on elected and appointed officials and a voice for members of society who have no other defender is the best selling point members of the journalism profession have for our work. What better way to prove to readers that we are valuable, have impact and can produce benefits for an entire community?

Update: I found out today (May 29) that I got a scholarship to attend the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Orlando this summer! About 30 reporters from Gannett were chosen. It’s still sinking in, but I’m really excited about the opportunity – and all the great speakers and sessions planned for June.