Detectives have been depicted through countless media platforms in modern-day. Whether through crime shows like Sherlock, youtube videos, Nancy Drew, conspiracy websites…. and most notably college students?
Both Sasha Urban and Austin Peay are some of the more recent investigative journalists at USC Annenberg School of Journalism, both holding position within the Beacon Project.
The Beacon Project is defined as, “a student journalism initiative supported by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to report on USC. It is independent of the university’s administration.” in the two notes before both Urban and Peay’s articles and the programs page itself in an outline bullet format.
Sasha Urban, a current junior staff writer for the Beacon Project, and news editor for the Trojan Post was the main journalist who published the investigation of Dr. Dennis Kelly who was reported to assault more than 40 men while visiting the USC Health Center and USC’s reported previous inference.
Austin Peay is a current undergrad as a news politics desk editor at the Trojan Post and staff writer at the Beacon Project followed the reaction and response of USC and new documented information on Dr. Kelly and criticism of the school’s transparent actions since.
On November 8th, Da Vinci Communication students within the Journalism and Strategic Communications pathways traveled to the campus to receive an opportunistic presentation on Urban and Peay’s experience with investigative journalism.
Journalism students were in awe when Urban displayed his outline of investigation reaching almost 60 pages filled with everything he knew and obtained to shape his article.
“It varies from case to case,” said Urban when asked some of the adaptive rules and set outline for an investigative case. “[You] figure it out as you go.”
When walking through his outline of investigative journalism, Urban showed the small annotations of questions, many appearing as short, yet open-ended, while also discussing his conscious rallying when the interview took place.
“You learn to go with the flow,” Peay commented on a journalist’s behavior when interviewing. “It’s all self-motivation, you can have a hype person, but it all comes back to you.”
Urban commented on how one of the more acknowledgeable takeaways he took when investigating was an old school but relevant and strategic mechanism called “door-knocking.” As it holds a great influence and transitions with conversation pieces as well.
Both journalists discussed the psychological aspects of how a folded piece of paper in the display when “door-knocking” can even have a direct tie to the probability of them letting you in.
“Once I came with a folded piece of paper in my hand,” said Urban. “I just had court documents that I asked them to read aloud.”
One of the most crucial points that both journalists recognized and utilized was the ability to ask for help.
“The editors should get just as much recognition as the journalists,” said Peay in relation to the importance of an altruistic editor. “At one point most of my calls on my phone were with my editor.”
In an investigative piece, it’s also important to recognize the legal importance of having lawyers present in an on-going and controversial article. Avoiding defamations by simple tasks like adding quotes around specific court terms and trading back and forth final revisions of the articles.
As a journalist begins to hover over the publish button of their article, the inference of letting an individual aware of the information about to be published is crucial. In Urban’s article, he details the importance of letting some of the main sources aware of the statements within the article being published.
Displaying even an example of his notification to USC to what information would be published of them and their short-written response.
“You always want to offer a last word before publishing,” said Urban. “Even though its usually a paragraph response.”