College of Media | News

Houston presents: Why Investigative Reporting Matters and the Increasing Role of Journalism Programs and Students

11/4/2013  8:00 am

Investigative reporting done in newsrooms staffed by faculty and students is on the rise at U.S. universities and is filling the gap created by deep cuts at traditional newsrooms says, Brant Houston, Professor and Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the College of Media.

Collaborations are increasing between university newsrooms and partners such as independent investigative centers, traditional media, public broadcasting and other college and university newsrooms, Houston said during a presentation given as one of the Foundation Weekend events.

He said university newsrooms are also collaborating across disciplines with computer science, library and information science, digital humanities, urban planning, education, social work and labor. Much of this collaboration involves the analysis of government databases and social welfare issues.

One example that Houston gave was, which he oversees at the Journalism Department in the College of Media. was begun four years ago and has published investigative stories on poverty, housing, health and government spending. The online newsroom provides a multi-media platform for student, faculty, alumni and professional journal work.

In his presentation entitled “Why Investigative Reporting Matters and the Increasing Role of Journalism Programs and Students,” Houston said he believes this is an exciting time for investigative journalism. He defined investigative reporting as a tool for keeping powerful interests accountable; a watchdog preventing waste, fraud and abuse; a court of last resort; working to expose unfairness and exploitation and revealing systemic failures.

He said instigative reporters have created high standards for their industry. These include independence, accuracy, thorough documentation and data, multiple and independent sources and transparency.

He said Journalism is undergoing a major transformation. Traditional print and broadcast outlets are on the decline with one-third of editorial print journalists leaving the industry in the past decade. Online news sites are on the rise, but some of those include journalists with no experience or professional training. There has also been a rise in solo and small investigative newsrooms.

Because of this transformation, journalism education and news literacy courses are needed now more than ever, he said

University newsrooms are a training ground for the concepts, skills and community engagement needed for quality investigative reporting. These newsrooms must be innovation labs testing new outreach and collaboration techniques. In the end, these newsrooms are becoming credible providers of news and investigations.

He said university newsrooms offer numerous advantages to students. They provide real time, practical experience and opportunities for innovation.

He said professors also are provided with a wealth of material for use in research. These newsrooms help to strengthen ties with the profession and they serve the community by increasing engagement. Thus, university newsrooms have the opportunity to become leaders in the field rather than followers.

How do universities sustain the newsroom? Houston asked.

Tradition says they should seek out donors. But there are also opportunities for entrepreneurial programs and business ideas, subscription sales, consulting and sponsorship and advertising. Through it all these, newsrooms must maintain transparency.


To see newsrooms in action and learn more:

University of Illinois


Knight Report - Searchlights and Sunglasses


Arizona State University


Columbia University - Stabile Center


Boston University – New England Center


Shorenstein at Harvard on Knight-Carnegie News21


Reconstruction of American Journalism


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