As part of the second day of the Chicago leg of IJJ’s 2009 Ethnic Media Conference, Stephen Franklin, Ethnic News Media Director for Community Media at Columbia College in Chicago, lectured fellows on in-depth reporting.

Franklin began with a roll playing exercise to help fellows deal with sources.  He acted belligerently as a cop, commander, factory rep and OSEA press rep related to a factory accident who denied information to fellow Julio César Ortiz and Senior Fellow Janet Wilson, who played reporter and editor respectively of a television news program working on the story.

Franklin used the example to illustrate how to better work with sources. He stressed the importance of asking questions in the context of situation and added that reporters should use their head as cameras and recorders.

He also recommended having a partner. He or she may have other skills necessary to complete the story. He or she could also be more organized, an advantage when working on these projects.

“Be prepared,” he said when going to an interview and suggested conducting interviews at beginning of the encounter; that might be the only shot for an interview.

Develop a strategy and find out who has got the information. When interviewing, he asked to “read back to people what they tell you,” in order to avoid being sued for libel.

“Carry two tape recorders,” he added in case one buckles. Franklin has a regular recorder and one hidden in his shirt’s lapel. Subjects are notified they’re being recorded, he said. Since the camera is hidden, they don’t feel threatened and open up more.

Fellow Brentin Mock asked for advice on reporting investigative pieces for new media.
Sometimes editors expected stories for websites quicker than print news. Wilson suggested putting out a short-term story with enough information to satisfy editor and readership and work on a long-term story with more in-depth material.

This could also alert potential sources, Wilson added.

When working with long-term stories journalist might end up hyping the story up, said Franklin; not overselling the story is important, he stressed.

Franklin posed difficult questions to fellows regarding working with authorities. Sharing information with FBI and other authorities have several implications.  Each case is considered into its context, but fellows agreed that certain steps must be taken like notifying the editor and the legal department of the publication.

Franklin reminded us of the importance of multimedia for our projects.

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