OCCC students attend investigative reporting workshop

Photo by Jocelyn Pedersen
OCCC News Writing I students, Mariah Johnson (left) and Rachel Borgsmiller, attended an in-depth and investigative reporting workshop recently. Sponsored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the workshop was held at the OPUBCO offices of The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City.

Several students from OCCC’s News Writing I class learned in-depth and investigative reporting strategies Friday at an Oklahoma City workshop.

Sponsored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, Inc., the day-long workshop was held at the Oklahoma Publishing Co.’s corporate offices in Oklahoma City — home of The Oklahoman newspaper. Marty Steffens, SABEW chair and University of Missouri professor, presided.

Students learned ways to tame large investigative projects as taught by Phil O’Connor, an investigative reporter at The Oklahoman. O’Connor encouraged students to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request every day. He said public records are fuel for investigative stories.

O’Conner said when journalists request public records and scrutinize them, they can discover trends and root out potential problems.

Reuters correspondent Brian Grow spoke about the investigative process required to produce the several in-depth stories he and his team wrote about the alleged Chesapeake Energy Corp. wrongdoings.

“Once you start to peel the onion, you don’t necessarily like what you see,” Grow said.

Steven Rich, University of Missouri graduate student, gave tips on free Web sources for journalists.

Mariah Johnson, News Writing I student who attended the workshop, said she learned although journalists may have a story, data is needed to back it up. Classmate Rachel Borgsmiller said the conference helped her learn how to gather information.

Speaker Bryan Painter of The Oklahoman spoke about putting a human face on in-depth stories as he did when he wrote about the 2011 drought and its effects on Oklahoma cattle and ranchers.

“Take common sense and compassion and wrap it with accuracy,” Painter said.

Dow Jones Newswires bureau chief Angel Gonzalez and Margot Habiby with Bloomberg News spoke about oil and gas trends to watch and write about. Elizabeth Sounder with the Dallas Morning News wrapped up the workshop by talking about electricity.

“I think it’s really helpful to people doing journalism to come to something like this,” Johnson said.

After writing a paper about their experiences at the workshop, students will be awarded extra credit for attending.

To contact Jocelyn Pederson, email onlineeditor@occc.edu.

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