As anyone who follows my Twitter feed will know I spent the weekend at City University taking part in a Summer School at the Centre for Investigative Journalism. I’d recommend any aspiring writer or seasoned hack to go next year (I will be) – it’s not often you get the chance to rub shoulders with Julian Assange, David Leigh, Mark Lee Hunter, Ben Goldacre and many more incredibly renowned journalists (like Paul Bradshaw, for example) and get the inside story on some of their best scoops.
I can’t begin to list the number of tips I’ve picked up for extracting stories from public and company accounts, analysing science stories, data encryption for protecting sources and so on. Perhaps the most important thing, though, was just a reminder to be more aware, all the time, of the importance of our writing.
Just be warned – it’s easy to get tempted away from the very useful classes on web scraping and datamining held by experts from ScraperWiki and Propublica in order to hear the incredible P Sainath speak about the (under-reported) mass suicide of Indian farmers or Paul Moreira tell you how he discovered that aid organisations couldn’t actually locate the 650+ schools they claimed to have funded in Afghanistan. You can watch that last video here. You really should.