Learning from Experience: Educational Reporting

This is a guest post from Riley Andrews, a member of the Chicago Undercovered class, which prioritizes reporting on Chicago’s South and West side communities.

Educational reporting involves building relationships, being persistent, and doing further research than you might expect. Sitting in front of a DePaul Community Reporting class, Mauricio Peña and Cam Rodriguez with Chalkbeat talked about the strategies and challenges of working the educational beat.

According to Peña, reporting on education involves being persistent with a variety of sources in order to find the information you need. Before his time at Chalkbeat, Peña worked with Block Club Chicago. He spent time knocking on doors, taking sources out for coffee, and getting to know them as he talked to them. Building an honest and personal reputation with sources may help you. Sources can connect you to other sources, and your research and resources will only grow.

Rodriguez highlighted the importance of doing further research. When gathering data from different organizations, it is imperative to check them and persist to get further information. Rodriguez advised that organizations are always more willing to provide statistics that make them look good – so you have to dig deeper for statistics that might show a more negative picture. It can be difficult to find this information, so Rodriguez talked about searching for patterns in archives to help analyze the data you do get ahold of.

So how can these relate to reporting the news in Chicago? In such a big city, it might seem like there is unending amounts of data to sort through when researching a story. Having established, friendly, and honest relationships with human sources can help you navigate through the story. In addition, trusting yourself is important as well. Checking and double-checking your sources is essential to good reporting practices, as you need to be able to stand behind the words you write and the readers you write for.

Published by spjonadepaul

Official website for DePaul University's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.

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