I’m still sorting through all the great tips, story ideas and reporting techniques shared by panelists at the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editors conference. A post is coming, I swear.

But one stuck out enough that I’ve already begun to notice it in other reporters’ work.

Take the first part of the Washington Post’s series on the widening gap between the rich and the rest in America. I finally got around to reading the article tonight, after seeing many recommendations.

Reporting, great. Writing, great. Idea, great. Go read the whole thing.

But there’s one part that stuck out to me, largely because of IRE:

“Company officials threatened to call the police as a reporter was interviewing workers outside one of its dairies.”

So often, reporters hesitate to include the things that authority figures do to keep information quiet. Again and again, panelists at the IRE conference gave the opposite advice.

When your open records request is denied for a ludicrous reason: Write about it.

When officials won’t answer questions about how they’ve spent taxpayer money: Write about it.

When a business tries to prevent you from interviewing employees: Write about it.

It could pay off in a release of the information you wanted. If anything, you’ve shown readers how hard your paper, station, site, etc. was willing to work to get the story. I think those details are a gentle reminder that journalists’ work is about getting information that readers deserve — but won’t have the time to seek out between their own job, family and friends.

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