Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

JMS Hosts IRE on Campus, a Week of Trainings and More

Grant-funded program through the IRE brings new tools and training to JMS students

JMS Hosts IRE on Campus, a Week of Trainings and More

Investigative Reports & Editors (IRE)

by Baylee Akins

March 23, 2021

Establishing good research habits is essential when working in the media industry and the advancement of technology requires the intersection of old and new research methods, some becoming more commonplace than others. Creating a space that allows educators and the next generation of journalists the opportunity to collaborate and share resources and methods allows for growth across the industry, and is at the heart of IRE on Campus, a program brought to the School of JMS from Investigative Reports & Editors (IRE).

IRE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of journalism through education and connection. JMS welcomed the IRE virtually in early February, bringing a week of informational sessions, hands-on workshops and smaller gatherings with student organizations. JMS was scheduled to host the IRE in February 2020, but the program was delayed a year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

San Diego State University was one of the first universities to be selected for IRE on Campus, a week-long event, and had been in the planning stages since 2019. Dr. Amy Schmitz Weiss, JMS journalism professor, submitted the School of JMS as an applicant for the program two years ago.

“I was so thrilled we were selected by IRE to have this important program at our School for our students,” said Schmitz Weiss.

“It’s a grant-funded program to make IRE more welcoming and inclusive to students that have been historically underrepresented in our industry,” said Francisco Vara-Orta, IRE training director and host of IRE Week. “Instead of trying to get them to come to us, we thought let’s go to them.”

IRE on Campus is an educational program that is for both educators and students from Historically Black Colleges and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), created to bring research and investigative tools and resources to underserved communities. San Diego State University is an HSI with a diverse student body and faculty, allowing the IRE to educate a diverse audience. IRE Week was free for all JMS students, and the value resonated with students who were able to attend.

“It’s great that we got to experience this as JMS students, it’s something we all can benefit from regardless of emphasis,” said Aleah Davenport Jarin, JMS student who attended multiple sessions. “My biggest takeaway was learning how to verify photos and other forms of media to avoid misinformation. It was also helpful to explore social media tools to verify account information.”

Vara-Orta was able to provide four informational sessions and two hands-on workshops for JMS students exploring the importance of background checks, finding and using data, public records, planning and managing an investigation, among other online tools. Vara-Orta shared the importance of integrating these practices early on in a person’s career to allow for continued growth.

“We made our information open-source so they can share and save this information, which is something I’m glad we were able to offer to them,” said Vara-Orta. “Also, being able to start relationships with the next general of journalists early, as students, will not only help get them in at a discounted rate, but it will help their growth as well.”

IRE Week concluded by rewarding nearly 30 JMS students a free one-year IRE membership, which they can renew at lower rates up to three years after graduation. These memberships come with many resources, trainings, data-gathering platforms and more that will give JMS students an edge after graduation.

“It was good to know that they have trainings, grants and bootcamps available with a strong focus on data,” said Cara Williams, a JMS student who was offered a free membership after attending. “Once I become a member, that will be really helpful in the long run as I pursue internships.”

JMS is comprised of faculty with varying career backgrounds and students with differing career goals. Regardless of your career background, research emphasis or career goals, the techniques and trainings provided by the IRE are beneficial to everyone across the media industry. For educators and students interested in gaining access to IRE resources, visit

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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