Preserving investigative journalism in Indiana
Investigative journalism is dwindling at the local level. Most local publications do not have the staff, funding, and time to produce thorough, investigative stories.
But one organization in The Media School is striving to change that.
The Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism has about 40 Indiana University students currently in the program. Students create written and visual investigative stories that are eventually published by professional outlets.
After a story is completed and published on the Arnolt Center’s website, Arnolt Center Director Kathleen Johnston (BA’82) sends it to the Hoosier State Press Association or Indiana Broadcasters Association, depending on the story’s format. From there, HSPA or IBA distribute the stories to major publications.
The content provided by the Arnolt Center often entails stories that outlets don’t have the time or resources to produce themselves. The work of these students is now a major asset for professional media companies.
“A lot of the more rural newspapers and the smaller newspapers are having staff issues, and they need young journalists to come to their newspapers and work for them,” HSPA Executive Director Amelia McClure said. “What Arnolt specifically does for our locally owned newspapers is provide a kind of journalism that they just do not have the capacity to do.”
In 2018, IU alumnus Michael Arnolt (BAJ’67) gave The Media School at Indiana University a $6 million endowment to create the Michael I. Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism. The Arnolt Center is now in its fourth full year of operation, giving undergraduate and graduate students a chance to have their work shown by prominent publications.
“Investigative journalism takes a lot of time, manpower, and focus,” McClure said. McClure said that most of Indiana’s newspapers “just don’t have the time to do investigative reporting.”
All work provided by the Center is free of charge to the HSPA and IBA, who then give their member organizations access to the stories. The HSPA has 147 member publications, while the IBA has over 270 members.
“We call the HSPA or IBA, whichever one is appropriate, and we say ‘Here’s the story, it’s coming out in a couple days, it’s free for your members,’” Johnston said.
Students who join the Center get a unique chance to have their work professionally published while still in school.
“They’re getting a great opportunity to learn investigative journalism,” Johnston said. “They’re working alongside media professionals, so they’re learning how the business works.”
“Student journalism is an important part of my future plan to grow the HSPA,” explained McClure, who became the association’s executive director last April. “Creating a high school newspaper, to college, to local journalism pipeline is extremely critical to the preservation of journalism in our state.”
Students work for class credits in their first semester with the Arnolt Center. Those who continue working for the Center past their first semester get paid $15 an hour. Student journalists who wish to be involved with the Center can complete an application on the website or find Johnston or managing editor Craig Lyons in the Arnolt Center’s office on the first floor of Franklin Hall.
The Center is also spotlighting the importance of investigative reporting through its upcoming annual symposium on Feb. 23. Students, faculty, staff, and public are invited to attend the free event. Two afternoon panels, “Investigative Journalism in Sports” and “Emerging Models for Investigative Journalism,” will be held prior to ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne’s keynote address at 5 p.m. See the complete schedule and register for the event on the Arnolt Center website.