More than two dozens journalists from throughout the U.S. gathered in Champaign, IL for an intense three-day workshop on covering big agribusiness companies.

The workshop is primarily funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago and hosted by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and Investigative Reporters and Editors. Sessions were led by agribusiness experts from Midwest universities and top reporters.

The journalists came from large and small newsrooms, both profit and nonprofit, and work in every medium. The workshop received support from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma and College of Media at the University of Illinois. The Midwest partners with Harvest Public Media and the Investigative Journalism Education Consortium.

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Session 1: Tracking the Farm Bill and its Potential Impact

Download Westhoff’s Presentation

Session 2: Exploring Biofuels and Ethanol in Agribusiness

Download Khanna’s Presentation

Lunch Session: The Business of Feeding the World: Food Insecurity and Agribusiness

Session 3: Understanding Crop Insurance

Presentation Available by Request

Session 4: Tour of the National Soybean Research Laboratory

A private tour organized for the workshop provided journalists with an opportunity to gain a rare behind-the-scenes view into research methodologies at a major research laboratory. The work taking place at the NSRL is largely due to the cutting edge technologies that allow researchers to control nearly every variable.


Q & A on Friday’s Sessions

Brant Houston, University of Illinois, starts the day off with a free-flowing discussion of the events from the day before.

Session 1: Using Food Safety and Inspection Reports for Investigations

Mike McGraw, Kansas City Star, reviews his work on meat processing.

Beef’s Raw Edges

Recommended Resources

Merit System Protection Board

USDA OIG Reports

System Tracking E-coli Positive System (STEPS)

Beef Board

USDA Reports & Data

Food Safety Inspection Recalls

Session 2: Investigating Environmental Issues in Agribusiness

Craig Cox, Environmental Working Group, speaks about investigating environmental issues in agribusiness.

Download Presentation

 Lunch Session: Living and Working on the Farm

Jaimi Dowdell, Investigative Reporters and Editors, leads a lunchtime discussion with the journalists about growing up and experiencing the farm life.

Third Session: Exposing Abuses in Farm Labor

Miguel C. Keberlein Gutierrez, Legal Assistance Foundation of Greater Chicago, discussing his experiences working with migrant workers in the Midwest.

Download Presentation

Fourth Session: Overview of the USDA Inspection System

Doug Powell, Kansas State University, joined the workshop by Skype while in Australia to discuss his observations and research into food safety.

Recommend Resources

Barf Blog

Prior Presentation


Hands-on Workshops

Mark Horvit, Investigative Reporters and Editors, leads a workshop on computer assisted reporting techniques.

Jaimi Dowdell, Investigative Reporters and Editors, leads an advanced class on computer assisted reporting techniques.

Recommended Resources

Tip Sheets at IRE

Thank you for coming!

We present the fellows and participants of the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute, “Covering Big Agribusiness in the Heartland” 2013 workshop.

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