What does it take to produce great investigative journalism? The aim of this course, taught by Professor David Barstow, is to answer this question by exploring methods and strategies for conceiving, reporting, writing and fact checking investigative narratives. What are the ingredients to look for when considering story ideas? Where does the reporting start? How do you go about identifying and developing sources? How do you get people to talk? How and when do you engage with the subjects of your investigation? How do you protect whistleblowers? How do you gather, organize and manage documents and notes? How do you carry the factual and psychological burdens that come with investigative reporting? How do you begin converting a mountain of reporting into concise, compelling story telling? How do you make sure your work can withstand the toughest scrutiny? How do you construct a story to convey authority and credibility?
Students will receive a thorough grounding in the entire investigative process through a series of lectures and discussions, supplemented by assigned readings. Over the course of this class, students will be asked to produce a fully developed story pitch for an investigative project of their choosing. The pitch will consist of a memo that covers the central hypothesis and importance of the story concept, a summary of what’s already known about the subject, a breakdown of the most pressing questions to attack first, a detailed rundown of possible public records requests, a comprehensive list of possible sources, a detailed discussion of the policy context behind the story idea, and a proposal on what is the best method for telling this story.