But John Schrag, the executive editor of Pamplin Media Group, a chain of 24 community newspapers in Oregon that includes the Portland Tribune, wanted to dig into it. But looking through records from the 238 high schools in the state was a lot of work, and the reporters at his papers were already stretched thin.
So Schrag decided to collaborate, and apprached Lee van der Voo of InvestigateWest, an investigative journalism nonprofit that partners with commercial news organizations on projects. He also brought in Emily Harris, an award-winning broadcast journalist from Reveal, part of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. They didn't stop there, pulling in the University of Oregon's Agora Journalism Center to help them get community members involved in the project and New York-based Solutions Journalism Network to train reporters to collect and analyze the data, George reports. And finally, they reached out to every high school journalism advisor in the state to see if students wanted to participate.
All told, they've received more than $61,000 in grants but what Schrag estimates is more than $100,000 worth of labor. "We are a medium-sized media company," Schrag told George. "That amount is the difference between a project getting done and not getting done."
They began requesting records in October 2017 and got about half of them by early spring 2018. By then the team had already uncovered some serious problems and human interest stories, and published the first installment of multimedia stories for "Rattled: Oregon's Concussion Discussion" in April.
Though getting hold of the records has been frustrating, and the team has had to scale back part of the project, the process has been rewarding for both rookies and veterans, Schrag said. Van der Voo outlined some tips for doing a project of such a daunting scale: begin it with a clear plan and precisely outlined expectations to keep people from feeling overwhelmed. Establish a clear chain of command, and keep clear records of conversations to make sure of quality control for sources.