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Investigating Public Pensions: IRE, Boston, June 15

The Particulars

Instructor: Craig Harris,
senior reporter at
The Arizona Republic

Location: Arlington-Berkeley
Boston Marriott Copley Place
110 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02116

When: 9:40-10:40 a.m.,
June 15

This session is open only to
attendees of the
Investigative Reporters
and Editors Conference.

Register here.

Hotel: Boston Marriott
Copley Place

A $1 trillion gap.

That’s what exists between what the states have promised their current and retired workers in retirement benefits and what they have on hand to pay for them, according to a 2010 report by the Pew Center on the States.

Arizona Republic senior reporter Craig Harris set out to find out how the gap played out in Arizona’s public pensions. His resulting series won the Gold Award in the 2011 Barlett and Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism, as well as the Toner Prize for political reporting.

The lighter the color, the greater a state's underfunding of its pension obligations, as of 2008, in this map by the Pew Center on the States. Those in dark blue were the best off: 91.6% to 107.4% of full funding.

On June 15, he’ll tell you how you can dig into your state’s public pensions, too, during an hourlong session, “Investigating Public Pensions,” at the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) annual conference in Boston.

The session is sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and open to conference attendees only.

IRE logoHowever, the Reynolds Center will also offer a free, pre-conference workshop on June 13, “Follow the Money — Tracking Companies’ Influence on Politics.” Journalists do not have to register for the IRE Conference to attend this free afternoon workshop.

What You Will Learn in Investigating Public Pensions:

  • How to uncover abuses in public pension systems.
  • How to spot red flags in an unhealthy public pension system.
  • Why unhealthy pension systems are a drain to taxpayers and should concern public employees.
  • How to win battles filing public records requests on pension records.
  • How to deal with a guaranteed backlash from public employee unions, their members (and their spouses).
  • How “to do the math” so readers understand how public pensions work.
  • How to organize a pension series with impact and do quick-hit daily stories.
  • And more, including how to translate pension jargon into understandable terms.
Craig Harris, reporter, The Arizona Republic

Craig Harris

Your Instructor

Craig Harris is a senior reporter for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. His series, “Public Pensions, A Soaring Burden,” won the Gold Award in the 2011 Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism, as well as the first Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting. He has been a reporter for 20 years at six daily newspapers.

Check out Harris’ behind-the-scenes essay on how he got the story that led to award-winning coverage for The Arizona Republic. Harris also offers investigative tips for other journalists.

For more information on public pensions, review these materials on Poynter.org  from SABEW’s public pensions seminar last year.

About the Program

This IRE conference session on Investigating Public Pensions is sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. If you have any questions about the center’s training, please email Executive Director Linda Austin or call 602-496-9187.

In Barlett & Steele Awards, Basics, Calendar: Workshops, Webinars, Investigation, Personal finance, Training.

Comments (1)

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  1. Frank Keegan says:

    Actually, the Pew study update only a year later put the unfunded liability at $1.26 trillion, a huge increase in such a short time. If you read the study, you will find that is because Pew for the first time acknowledges official calculations are misleading, at best, and supports more realistic estimates putting the UAAL at $4 trillion. Now the latest GAO study supports the reality that public DB pensions are unsustainable.

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