Who let the watchdogs out?

By ANDREW PAXTON

A collection of journalists from around the state recently converged at the University of Arizona to take part in professional workshops designed to strengthen investigative reporting skills.

Seven members of the Aztec Press student staff, along with our faculty adviser, joined journalists from local publications at the 2014 Tucson Watchdog Workshop.

All of us attending had a similar goal in mind: improving our investigative skills in order to hold people accountable for their misdeeds. That serves as an important check on those in power.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting, delivered this vital training.

The first session, hosted by IRE trainer Megan Luther, covered quick-hit investigations. We learned how to produce in-depth stories in the same amount of time usually required to write a simple news article. We fine-tuned our analytical minds to help expose fraud or corruption.

The next workshop, “The Art of Access,” was my personal favorite. It was led by David Cuillier, head of the UA journalism department and current national president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

I was practically salivating thinking about all the different public records and files the newspaper will start requesting in order to better serve the students and employees of Pima Community College. After all, this is our college and we deserve to know what’s going on.

The final workshop before lunch delved into the art of better navigating the Internet for our journalistic work. Web searches become a lot easier when you realize Google isn’t the only way to fly.

The sheer abundance of sites available for background searches makes our college’s recent hiring woes that much more puzzling, but I digress …

After lunch, our intrepid staff decided to take a commemorative group photograph in front of the Marshall Building, home of the UA journalism department.

What should have been a 30-second jaunt around the corner turned into an hour-long expedition across the UA campus, with staff members disappearing quicker than characters in a scary movie.

We eventually rounded up the strays and our unexpected trip turned out to be most fortuitous. When we finally “found” the Marshall Building, we bumped into Cuillier, who informed us we wouldn’t have even been able to access the building without him.

He then led us on an impromptu tour. The impressive credentials of the department’s various professors had us all chatting long after our excursion ended.

The afternoon workshops offered opportunities to learn more about investigating cartels and immigration issues, important topics across the country and especially here in the Southwest.

I would like to extend thanks to IRE and UA for hosting the workshop, and also acknowledge Jennifer Wellborn, Shawn Graham and everyone at West Campus Student Life for helping us with funding.

Our staff intends to incorporate everything we learned at the 2014 Tucson Watchdog Workshop into our reporting. We will dig even deeper for the stories that matter most to you, because that’s how we roll.

Enjoy the issue.

Filed Under: Opinion

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