Investigative Reporters & Editors salutes Linsdey Hobbs of Otterbein University in Ohio, recipient of the eighth annual Betty Gage Holland Award recognizing excellence in college journalism. Hobbs and the student newspaper at Otterbein, The Tan & Cardinal, were honored for their continued coverage of increased secrecy surrounding campus crime in 2012.
After Otterbein's campus security force gained certification as a full police department in late 2011, Hobbs investigated. She found a longstanding pattern of student misdemeanors -- and sometimes more serious crimes -- being handled through campus judicial proceedings rather than criminal courts. Subsequent reporting by Hobbs also details the inconsistency with which private schools like Otterbein handle criminal records in Ohio. To this day, the paper is fighting for access to once-public incident reports.
Hobbs is an alumna of IRE's Campus Coverage Project, a program to train college reporters in investigative skills. Campus Coverage Project's partner Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, continues to assist Hobbs and the Tan & Cardinal as they navigate the legal system in pursuit of access.
Investigative reporting on higher education presents a unique set of challenges. This is due largely to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which many schools cite as they resist disclosure of public records. Access to private universities is even more fraught, as they are not regulated in the same way as schools that receive federal funding. Campus Coverage Project works to equip young journalists with the legal grounding and journalistic tools they need to report well despite these obstacles, and to hold schools accountable to the disclosure standards they are bound to. We are very proud of Lindsey for her determination to do so.
Hobbs is managing editor of Otterbein360.com, the website encompassing all student media groups in the Department of Communication at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. The journalism and public relations major will graduate in May.