Category: Story Ideas

Summer Plan To Do List #2

Request budget allocations for student clubs

union.clubsMost colleges and universities have a gazillion student clubs funded by student fees. My undergraduate school, Union College, with only 2200 students has more than 100 student clubs. Penn State, with some 40,000 students, has more than 1,100 clubs. Request a list of allocations from the student government to these clubs. Which ones get the most money? What do they get the money for? Are they required to report the number of members? Do a per capita analysis. Which clubs get the most money per member?

Summer plan To Do list #2: Check out your school’s admissions enrollment data

By now, your college or university knows who it admitted and who it rejected. Get the data on that — how many, what geographies they came from, what ethnicities and genders they represent. It is probably on the university website. If not, request it through a state public records act request. Then compare that against your local census data and data from across the state by looking it up on the U.S.Census American Factfinder site. 

If you can find a wide discrepancy between your state demographics and the university’s demographics this could be the basis for a good story for your back to school issue in the fall.

Your To Do plan for the summer

Summer is a great time to practice some investigative reporting skills.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll lay out a series of tasks you can do so that when you return to school in the fall, you’ll be all set to form your I-Team and get going.

Summer skills task #1

Train yourself to find investigative story ideas. Read your local newspaper’s website
daily.  Find a story about some kind of problem. questions-imageIt might be a breaking news story. It might be a comment from someone in a write up of a city council meeting. Create a chart. In one column write a list of questions you have from what you read that the reporter failed to ask. In the other column come up with one person or place that might have the answer to that question.

To give yourself bonus points, shoot out a public records request for information about that problem.