I met and talked with the legendary Marty Baron at the conference. Marty is the executive editor of the Washington Post. Prior to that, he was the executive editor of the Boston Globe. Photo by: Dominique Smith

Dominique Smith Shares His Experience at IRE 2018

Dominique Smith, now a senior at the University of Central Florida, attended the 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference in Orlando, Florida, as part of DJNF’s Emerging Journalists program.

By Dominique Smith

Last summer, I was blessed to attend the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Orlando, my hometown. Those four days were mentally and emotionally exhausting, but they were also some of the best days that I’ve ever had in my life. I learned more about the art of investigative journalism and what it takes to be a successful investigative journalist. Quite frankly, before the conference, I didn’t think I would be interested in investigative journalism.

I signed up to take Investigative Journalism as an independent study class at the University of Central  Florida this fall to learn more about it. The next thing I knew I received an email from my professor about the opportunity to attend the IRE conference through the Dow Jones News Fund. I completed the application process and found out not long afterward that I was selected to attend.

I was excited, yet nervous. I’m an introvert by nature, so networking and meeting new people in a large setting wasn’t in my comfort zone. But one of the lessons that I learned quickly was in order to be a successful investigative journalist, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Linda Shockley, DJNF managing director, encouraged me to meet new people and take advantage of every opportunity while I was at the conference. I took her advice. Moments later, I handed my first business card to LaSharah Bunting, director of Journalism for Knight Foundation. I handed out business cards to anyone who would take one.

I met some incredible journalists and aspiring journalists. Some of the best moments that I had were hanging with journalism students from other schools. Some had already graduated and some were rising seniors. Listening to them share their experiences inspired me to do great things and to keep striving for excellence.

I took in wisdom from some of the top journalists in the profession during those four days. For instance, I learned from Al Tompkins in the Don’t Bore Me session that readers will remember what they feel rather than what they know. In the Self-editing moves you can start today session, I learned that I am the first editor for any story that I write and that I should print out my first draft and proofread it for errors and accuracy.

My hand is still recovering from all the notes I took. I even met the legendary journalist and editor Marty Baron at lunch one day. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d meet such exceptional journalists, and feel welcomed in such a family.

I’m thankful for the DJNF and the good people at IRE for such an incredible experience. I encourage everyone to invest in the DJNF and take advantage of everything they offer. This conference gave me a new perspective on journalism and a burning desire to continue to strive for excellence. I will be forever grateful to DJNF for the opportunity to attend the conference.