Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Investigative journalism can be confusing and time-consuming; the pop-up community newsroom can assist

Photo by Christopher Edwin Nuzzaco via UM
Local journalists need to find the time and resources to conduct an investigation more than ever, but working out either can be difficult. Pop-up journalism training can help.

"The pop-up community newsroom is a tool designed to help small newsrooms meet the information needs of a community. For example, it can be used after local climate or public health emergencies when there's a demand for in-depth, original reporting, but where local newsrooms might lack the resources to undertake such projects on their own," reports Stacy Feldman for the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. "This often involves quickly assembling a team of local subject matter experts and community members — often non-journalists — to participate in investigative reporting.

"So how can the editor in charge of the pop-up newsroom efficiently train these new reporters in investigative journalism, covering areas like interviewing, fact-checking, ethics and more?" Feldman shares some tools that her newsroom, Boulder Reporting Lab, has used to onboard pop-up newsroom participants:

Citizens Investigation Guide by the Global Investigative Journalism Network
"Particularly useful in this guide is its accessible primer on investigation planning and execution. While it does not replace the need for an experienced professional journalism editor in the pop-up, GIJN provides a crash course on the importance of selecting a line of inquiry before work begins. It also offers guidance on how to devise a research plan and schedule, interview effectively, and the importance of due diligence — including how to distinguish between primary documents and secondary sources.

Accuracy checklist by NPR
"Most non-journalists in the pop-up newsroom won't be full-time and will have busy schedules outside of the pop-up project. What distinguishes journalists from advocates or researchers is their unwavering commitment to accuracy through fact-checking and other journalistic practices. . . . NPR's suite of training articles is particularly well-suited for those with limited time and reporting experience. For instance, its articles on setting clear expectations with sources before you interview them and how to identify people correctly are part of the pop-up newsroom training toolkit.

A Reporter's Guide to Pre-Publication Review by Reporters Committee For Freedom of Press
"The more investigative a pop-up newsroom project is, the more crucial it becomes to address potential legal liability upfront. This prevents a lengthy pre-publication review process by your attorney, saving time and avoiding issues for both reporters and the newsroom. This guide highlights the importance of hyperlinking to relevant reports or public records to substantiate claims in stories. It also emphasizes allowing sources to respond to any and all allegations and including their responses, and how using precise and unambiguous language reduces the risk of legal disputes.

The Art and Create of Feature Writing by William E. Blundell
"Writing on complex topics can be a challenge, even for seasoned journalists. It can be especially perplexing for those new to in-depth journalistic writing. To make the process smoother, it's helpful to designate one or two experienced writers to the project from the outset. Having multiple writers can lead to confusion and create problems for the editor. The chosen writers should have experience distilling information and have a strong interest in learning journalistic writing.

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