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?
If you attend a public college or university, check to see if your state auditor’s office has done any audits of your school. An audit is an official inspection of financial accounts and sometimes uncovers financial mismanagement, embezzlement or other types of shenanigans. You can find your state auditor’s database online by Googling it. The screenshot below of the website for the more than $350,000 in fraud by the postal services manager. And a search of the word “university” in the California State Auditor’s website turns up a report on how the University of California had systematically been admitting fewer in state high school students in favor of out-of-state students who pay higher tuition.