Speaking Truth to Power: Second Annual Pre-Collegiate Fellowship in Investigative Journalism at the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Workshop coordinator Professor Ernest Wiggins said the overarching goal of the Pre-Collegiate Fellowship in Investigative Journalism’s intensive program is not only to expose students to ways of gathering and analyzing information, but also to introduce young journalists to new ways of thinking about the profession and the practice.
“Our hope is that they will see the great importance of speaking truth to power and making sure those who hold the public trust conduct themselves responsibly,” Wiggins said. “This has never been more vital.”
In the Spring 2013 issue of Nieman Reports, writer Dan Froomkin presented the case for the need for more watchdog journalism in this age of information control and spin.
In his article, Froomkin quotes Doug Pardue, investigations reporter for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier, whose hard-hitting series on the financial, educational and health care inequities in South Carolina challenged Gov. Nikki Haley’s public statements about the need for federal assistance. Pardue said that his eight-month investigation revealed that, contrary to what state leaders contended, enormous benefits would come from raising taxes and expanding Medicaid.
“You should say what you discover,” Pardue said of the role of a watchdog journalist. “I think the best journalism cuts through all of the he said/she said.”
Froomkin writes that this kind of reporting goes beyond “clerkism,” a form of journalism that does not challenge the official version of things, and holds accountable those whose actions affect public life.
Watchdog journalists say finding the often inconvenient truth that might be hiding in plain sight requires curiosity, courage and commitment and more sophisticated skills than routine reporting. Successful watchdog journalists are crafting and administering surveys and polls, analyzing data and challenging unsupported claims of newsmakers and their spokespersons.
The Pre-Collegiate Fellowship in Investigative Journalism Workshop at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications helps young journalists lay a foundation for a future careers as watchdog reporters and editors.
The one-day, expenses-paid workshop is offered just before SIPA’s summer workshop, the Carolina Journalism Institute at USC and features sessions on Freedom of Information, strategic web searching, data mining and project construction and execution.
In addition to instruction from USC faculty, the 2013 workshop featured sessions by Chris Davis, head of investigations for the Tampa Bay Times, and Rob Wells, a former editor for the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business News. This year’s fellows were Hannah Bailey of J.L. Mann High School in Greenville, Abby Meister of Mauldin High School in Mauldin, Alton Lee Peques Jr. of South Mecklenberg High School in Charlotte, N.C., and Anderson Scull of Richland Northeast High School. Two USC student media were guests of workshop – Paul Critzman and Hunter Banks of SGTV.
Baldwin Business Journalism Initiative at the SJMC funded the 2013 workshop.
– Ernest Wiggins, Associate Professor at School of Journalism and Mass Communications