It can be done in high school
Who is an investigative reporter?
• All news reporters should be, or at least
• There is nothing magical about it.
• It takes intense curiosity.
• It takes a little skepticism.
• A little bit of outrage.
• Add a lot of luck. And you have…
• Definition: The reporting, through one’s
own initiative and work product, of
matters of importance to readers,
viewers or listeners. In many cases, the
subjects of the reporting wish the
matters under scrutiny to remain
But it’s more than that. Really.
• It also includes stories that might get
missed because they involve a little
• Also, it includes enterprise reporting.
A lot of it involves records
• Public records.
• News records.
• Court records.
• Board of Ed records.
• Sometimes someone will tip you about
something going on.
• And it could be a good tip.
• No one will talk.
Some ideas for digging
• U.S. Census: http://www.census.gov/
– Population of your town and trends
– Racial or poverty changes
– Neighborhood changes
Excel is good to know
• Tuition costs of five most popular
colleges where your classmates go.
• Health problems of students (without
embarrassing one student with a
– Depression (stats) and professional
– Anorexia; special needs; etc.
• Compare budgets to competing
• How much did each spend on books?
Extra curriculars? Teachers’ salaries?
Board of Ed
• Go to meetings (see board site for
Ask for salaries
• Superintendent, principal should all be
• OPRA them.
• It’s all public information.
Open Public Records Act
• All records, with some exceptions, are
open to the public, including high school
• Record keeper (school board secretary,
municipal clerk) has 7 business days to
• Describe your record carefully.
• Foundation for Open Government
• Investigative Reporters and Editors
• Society of Professional Journalists
• Student Press Law Center
Word of mouth
• Talk to people in the cafeteria.
• Find people in large clubs (band, major
• Engage teachers, aides, staff in
What does your school buy?
• Discipline problems: what’s the policy?
• Is there is a written policy?
• Is discipline ad hoc and therefore
unpredictable?Are certain racial or
ethnic groups singled out?
• Are there drugs or alcohol in school?
• Sexual harassment?
• Are failing students elevated to the next
• What is the dropout rate?
Are teachers competent?
• Some teachers need to be recertified.
How many are?
• What colleges have teachers attended?
– List them in clusters
– Find stories among the most common
colleges — and the least common.
• Who picks the books? What are the
• Who hires internet companies; what are
• What are the standards for buying
computers? How are they equipped?
• How can students get out of lower
Special needs students
• About 1 out of 10 receives at least some
• Are special needs students segregated
• Are special needs terms being abused
to get more funding? Are more students
being tossed into the category?
• Who are they? What do they do?
• Bus drivers driving unsafe buses?
• Is the building safe? Asbestos in the
ceiling? Broken windows?
• Is your school a fire trap?
• How many are home-schooled, and
what happens to them when they turn
The big picture
• Try to understand the most important
problems your school has; look into
them. No one else will.
• Look at everything: money, faculty,
• Find a common picture; then write your
Basic writing rules
• Talk to people; don’t lecture them.
• Stay outraged.
• Put people into your story.
• Use a lot of graphics.
• Don’t bore the reader.
• Avoid stereotypes.
• Use an outline, a chronology or both.
But be responsible