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Campus Coverage Project students showcase investigative reporting skills

Experienced reporters have some rising stars to keep an eye on, thanks to the Campus Coverage Project.

Just last week, a story edited by 2011 project participant Chelsea Boozer, now managing editor of The Daily Helmsman at the University of Memphis, was published on IRE’s “Extra Extra” blog.

The Campus Coverage Project teaches college students investigative reporting techniques by training them to examine their own college campuses. Students are encouraged to publish their work and submit it to the project’s website.

Seven articles that participants reported, edited and published since January’s training conference have been featured on the website. In fact, this year the group started awarding its monthly prize of $200 in January instead of February because there were so many articles to choose from.

St. Cloud State University’s Molly Willms, reporting for the University Chronicle, earned the prize for her follow-up on the dismissal of an enrollment administrator, who was escorted off the campus last fall with no explanation to the student body.

To participate in the project students go through a competitive application process; about 75 students have been chosen each year since 2010. The yearlong program starts with an intensive four-day conference hosted by Steve Doig and faculty at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

At the conference, participants get training in everything from open records laws and campus issues to money trails and data-driven reporting. For the rest of the year, a listserv populated by fellow participants and program panelists keep students fueled up with resources and encouragement from their peers.

An important role of Campus Coverage Project is the culture of accountability it cultivates at colleges and universities around the country. From explaining personnel dismissals to justifying student fees and athletic budgets, these institutions, like every other, run better in sunlight.

The project is sponsored by the Lumina Foundation and presented by IRE in collaboration with the Student Press Law Center and Education Writers Association.

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