Friday, June 8

Dispatch from the Biltmore: IRE conference in session

The following is from Chronicle news editor Joshua Zaffos:

Well, there's been disturbingly little talk about Paris Hilton at the annual conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors at the Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix. Most of the journalists here are all bogged down in the trivial matters of criminal justice, immigration, war crimes and affordable housing, and seem to be dropping the ball on Paris' return to Hotel California.

The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh spoke this morning, and spent most of his time going off on the godforsaken behavior of the Bush administration and the sorry state of our country, rather than tipping admiring colleagues as to how he broke the story of Abu Ghraib. When one young reporter asked him about his outspoken critique of the White House and whether that's inhibited or helped his access to sources, Hersh responded, "You don't have to be a Freudian to know I have more than political objectivity in my head."

That's a point that alt-press staffers can appreciate, but Hersh did chastise independent weeklies for failing to occupy the dailies' growing void of investigative journalism, and he was equally critical of NPR for becoming softer in recent years.

Another highlight of the day was the "Unsung Documents" panel session, which included James Steele, now of Vanity Fair, who shared some stories about culling compelling narratives from investigations of obscure court records and tax documents.

Otherwise, the locals keep trying to convince me that the 95-degree heat of Phoenix is pleasantly mild, and every cab driver I hitch a ride with has an agro rant about the light rail in-progress for some reason or other, even though none of them think it will hurt their business and all seem to acknowledge that the city's transit sucks. Meanwhile, one cabbie bragged to me yesterday that he loved Phoenix because, "There are no natural disasters. We don't have hurricanes, we don't have tornadoes."

All I could think was, "This entire city is a natural disaster, and the no-end-in-sight regional drought may prove sufficiently catastrophic one day."

Anywho, off to grab an end-of-the-day cocktail.

1 comment:

5 Alive said...

Oh, wow. Cool. Seems like you're getting a lot out of the conference, what with the Seymour Hersch and milking narratives from tax documents. (If my 2005 W-2 could talk!)

But does your convention have this?

Oh, no, that's right. It has this.

Brilliant seminars can only get you so far in life.