BIRN’s Annual Summer School Kicks Off in Greece

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BIRN’s 13th Summer School of Investigative Reporting is bringing together 36 journalists from South-East and Central European countries for a week-long training to develop skills, explore new techniques and cooperate in cross-border stories.

This year’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting started on Monday in Thessaloniki, Greece.

During the week-long programme, journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Georgia and Uzbekistan will master their investigative skills and techniques and learn from Pulitzer and European Press Prize winners.

Regional Director of BIRN HUB Milka Domanovic welcomed the participants to one of BIRN’s flagship programmes. “We hope that you will be able to implement the knowledge you gain here and connect even after the course is finished,” Domanovic said.

Ivana Nikolic, Programme Manager at BIRN’s Investigative Reporting Initiative Programme, presented the agenda to participants selected from a record-breaking number of applications – more than 220 this year.

“We are very proud to have had this amazing number of applications, and to be honest, it was very hard to select the best ones,” Nikolic said.

During the week, participants will learn about basics of investigative reporting; OSINT; visual investigations; how to stay digitally secure while working on a story; essentials of cross-border reporting; how to avoid burnout in journalism; how to master data journalism, etc.

In addition, there will be two panel discussions: one dedicated to “journalism in exile”, that is, reporting about one’s country from afar, and one dedicated to investigating the migrant crisis in Greece. The full programme can be found here.

The first day started with Michael Montgomery, a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. He talked about the fundamentals of investigative reporting. “It’s less often than not that you will come up with a completely new story. A new angle on a story that’s been covered can be even more impactful,” Montgomery said, advising participants to follow their passion and check their sense of outrage when choosing a story.

“It’s always easier to get someone to confirm something you already know or think you know than to get them to volunteer information you do not possess. That’s super important, to get people to talk. Most people don’t like to think they are spilling secrets,” Montgomery told participants.

Marija Ristic, Manager at Amnesty International’s Evidence Lab, introduced Open Source Investigations.

“Open-source researchers expose themselves and the subjects of the information they collect to various digital threats. Understanding how to protect yourself and the data generated during your research from threats is essential knowledge for digital investigators,” she said.

The first day ended with a workshop on story pitching, with journalists sharing ideas.