Investigative reporting

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					Investigative reporting

It can be done in high school
    Who is an investigative reporter?

• All news reporters should be, or at least
  could be.
• 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…
     Investigative reporting!
• 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.
              Other times
• No one will talk.
    Some ideas for digging
• U.S. Census:
  – Population of your town and trends
  – Racial or poverty changes
  – Neighborhood changes
  – Health
  – Justice
Excel is good to know
     Investigative reporting
• 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.
              Seek help
• 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
  teams, etc.)
• Engage teachers, aides, staff in
    What does your school buy?
•   Food
•   Maintenance
•   Construction
•   Supplies
•   Books
          School violence
• 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?
         Student retention
• 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.
     Instructional materials
• Who picks the books? What are the
• Who hires internet companies; what are
  the criteria?
• 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
  support nationally.
• Are special needs students segregated
  or mainstreamed?
• Are special needs terms being abused
  to get more funding? Are more students
  being tossed into the category?
   Non-teaching employees
• 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,
  student backgrounds.
• 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.
Have fun
But be responsible

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