ProPublica partners with YSU journalism program for pilot reporting project

Youngstown State University and ProPublica, the nation’s leading investigative reporting organization, will be piloting a project where journalism students work on investigative stories under the guidance of ProPublica editors.

Stephen Engelberg, managing editor of ProPublica, will be working with YSU Journalism Professors Tim Francisco and Alyssa Lenhoff to give students enrolled in the Advanced Reporting course in the fall an opportunity to report and produce important investigative stories.

Engelberg will visit campus at the beginning of the project and then will be joining the class each week via Skype. He will be talking with students about a wide range of journalistic issues from finding stories to uncovering information and conducting interviews.

Engelberg, who has been with ProPublica since its inception four years ago, is the former managing editor of The Oregonian in Portland.

He also worked at The New York Times where he founded that newspaper’s investigative team and has won numerous national awards for his work.

Engelberg said ProPublica is interested in sharing its expertise and that YSU’s open-access mission and its heavy emphasis on investigative reporting make it a strong fit for the project.

“With regional publications under financial strain, the question of how to train the next generation of investigative journalists is now a critical one. We are delighted to participate in this approach, which shows real promise,” he said.

Lenhoff said investigative reporting is a critical skill for journalism students to master. “We place a heavy emphasis on investigative and in-depth reporting. We do this for several reasons: We believe that this type of reporting is critical for society in general; and we also believe that it gives our graduates an advantage when they are ready to enter the profession,” she said.

The pilot project with YSU is part of the university’s growing NewsOutlet operation and expanded emphasis on its journalism major. Earlier in the year, University President Cynthia Anderson named the journalism major, “The Anderson Program in Journalism” to honor her late parents.

The NewsOutlet, launched at YSU, is a joint venture among several other universities and professional media organizations. The Vindicator and WYSU were its two founding media partners.

Students working with TheNewsOutlet produce enterprise and investigative stories in multiple media platforms for any interested media organization.

Under Vindicator leadership, TheNewsOutlet won first place in the Ohio Associated Press competition for investigative reporting involving Mount Calvary, a powerful church in the city.

The NewsOutlet, founded by Lenhoff and Francisco, is funded by The Raymond John Wean Foundation, the Youngstown Foundation, YSU, WYSU and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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