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.
Students on The Whetstone newspaper at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware, combed through their schools Form 990 in April. As a private college, Wesley is exempt from the state’s public records act. So unlike students at public universities, the student newspaper isn’t entitled to administration records. But all private not-for-profit colleges and universities must file a Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service and make those records available to the public. All student newspapers at private institutions should track down their school’s Form 990. It has a ton of information in it on how much money the school raises and spends and where it spends that money. A great place to find your school’s Form 990 is through ProPublica’s NonProfit Explorer search engine.
The Whetstone discovered through the 990 that Wesley College pays Barnes and Noble $400,000 to run the bookstore and Aramark Corp. more than a million for food service.
Has your student newspaper done any investigative reporting? Send us the links to your stories or media and we will spotlight them here!
In April, reporters at the State Hornet at Sacramento State University in California used public records to identify individuals not named in a NCAA report on infractions by the university’s tennis program that put the program on a three-year probation.
Has your student newspaper done any investigative reporting? Send us the link to your story or media and we’ll spotlight it here!