Even at a small campus paper, you can do a big investigation if you plan ahead. See if you can get four to five people interested in taking on a big project. Over a term you’ve got between 10-15 weeks to carry it out. Rarely these days do reporters take on big projects by themselves. That’s particularly true since it is no longer enough to prove a case and write up a story. These days, you need to package your story and that means art, video and audio. So who do you want on an I-Team? Look for people with different skills:
- Someone good with numbers and spreadsheets.
- Someone with good news judgement — who can spot the story in all the information you are bound to gather.
- Someone who can handle the visuals– the photos and videos.
- Someone good with audio.
- And of course, a solid interviewer.
Okay, this is the A-Team and you want an I-Team. But note how each member of the A-Team brought different skills to the team.
Make sure everyone understands who is in charge. You don’t want to put a lot of work into a big reporting project only to have it fall apart over disagreements. There needs to be someone in charge who can make the difficult calls when disagreements arise.
Check how safe your classrooms are. This is a good project for a large team. You might look at one building on campus. A science building is a good one because it often houses classes that all students are required to take at one time or another. Divide up the classrooms among the team members and create a form. You should check these things:
- Can a big student easily fit under each desk and is the desk sturdy enough to serve as protection against falling debris or a collapsed wall or ceiling?
- Do windows line a wall of the room next to student desks?
- Would students be easily able to exit the room in the case of an earthquake?
- Is heavy equipment like cameras and projectors safely bolted to walls and ceilings?
Try diagramming your notes.
When you talk to many sources you collect so much information you can get lost in it.
Each source you talk to only sees a small piece of the big picture. You get a sense of the big reality by connecting all these small pieces.
It helps to draw a circle for each piece of information and connecting them together.
You can do this on your computer and share it among your team members with Google Docs. Just open a new file and choose Drawing. You can insert boxes or bubbles fill in text and connect them with lines or arrows.
When you diagram your sources or the information you gathered you can see visually what pieces of information came from many different sources — and so is credible and relevant and when a piece of information came from only one source and may be less credible or tangential.