Investigative Journalism 101

I believe I empowered my students today.  My Investigative Journalism class is studying budgets, specifically St. Peter’s budget.  I figured we would study something they are all familiar with.   During the last couple of meetings, we have been taking a look at the IRS 990 forms filed by the school for 2006 and 2007.  I’m showing then how anyone can access public records and how these forms can lead to a good story.

Well, lo and behold, last week, the college president announces that St. Peter’s, like many colleges across the country has a budget deficit and must cut back.  The cut backs include laying off people.  To explain the deficit and cuts, the president held an open forum today. It was perfect — a press conference to discuss the very issue we were studying.  And it was well attended.  When one is talking about cutting back, people pay attention.  My Investigative Journalism class attended the meeting and it was quite intimidating.  They were just a few students attending.   But that didn’t stop them from asking questions, including one that stumped the president and his finance guy.   My students came prepared and they were not afraid to ask the tough questions.  I’m sure their note taking made some people a bit nervous!

Thank goodness I didn’t tell them that I was so nervous as a young reporter, it took me several press conferences before I had the nerve to ask a question.

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