Journalism curricula and investigative reporting

Submitted by jhai on Tue, 03/03/2009 – 10:14pm

Session Convenor: Bill Moushey

Session Reporter: Jackie Hai

Discussion Participants: Lou Ureneck, Ken Carpenter, Carey French, et al.

Bill Moushey of the Innocence Institute at Point Park University and Lou Ureneck of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University talked about their programs.

Innocence Institute – research and reporting – 2 sets of classes

Open-ended classes (practicum, internship, directed research)

– students have gotten 15-18 credits doing things related to Innocence Institute

– they have very little knowledge of criminal justice system, after taking classes, knowledge base increased tenfold

– 13 cases have been reversed each year

– 400 media appearances in last 2.5 years

– Bill is expanding the Innocence Institute to become a center for enterprise reporting

New England Center for Investigative Reporting

– students are trained in classes that prep them for internship at the center

– internships are guided/directed

– center has partnerships with media: Boston Globe, New England Cable News, WBUR

– each unit brings something to table: reporting/editing help, production capacity

– now trying to tap into alumni network

Young people fall in love with their stories – a huge motivator

How many kids in each class?

– 20 kids involved in Innocence Institute

Have never finished an investigation in one semester – sometimes runs into summer – need committed faculty for this.

At BU, paid reporters from media partners are leading investigations, coaching students, but not teaching classes – giving students pieces of the assignment and guiding them. At Point Park, students enterprise their own stories and investigations.

How to ensure integrity of reporting?

– students don’t go alone, faculty accompany students on interviews

– students usually have not yet developed a good B.S. meter, need to be told to double-check

– anecdotal stuff not allowed unless presented on documents

How to get started with your own center

– integrating programs

– “center” means outside funding sources

– consider which route to take: 501(c)3 standalone vs. university umbrella

– Bill modeled his program after one by David Protess at Northwestern, though now it’s grown more towards becoming a larger organization

Getting buy-ins

– from universities, e.g. law school partner

– from other journalism professors, e.g. broadcast, photography

– bring in more instructors by hiring through center with grant funding

ProPublica model

– give away stories in exchange for credit, student’s name in byline

– gets the word out


– two cornerstone courses: principles and techniques of journalism, media law and ethics

– course in investigative reporting

– IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) book, anecdotes and tips

– students get cases almost immediately, compiling backgrounds, surveying kids in detention centers

This is good, old-fashioned journalism

– though the presentation may change, fearless hardnosed reporting is still the backbone of good journalism

– students still want to learn this and are flocking to it

About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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