Investigation sprang from partnership between Star-Telegram, TCU journalism school

05/15/2014 3:54 PM

05/16/2014 8:02 AM

Early last June, I got an email from John Lumpkin, director of TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism, asking whether the Star-Telegram would be interested in partnering on an innovative experiment involving the school’s students.

The idea was that TCU would offer a new course where senior-level students would work under the direction of professional editors to produce investigative projects on subjects that were outside the scope of campus and that affected communities and community organizations in the Tarrant County area.

You’re seeing the results of that partnership in the paper and on star-telegram.com today and Saturday.

The Star-Telegram and TCU have partnered before on many projects, but this was one of the most important ones we’ve attempted. The practice of journalism is undergoing major disruption brought on by the Internet and changing business models, and it’s essential that new professionals entering the field are more equipped than ever to handle the multi-platform roles necessary for today’s journalists.

We thought this new program would be effective in improving their odds for success.

The course began in January and was taught by Lumpkin and John Tisdale, associate director of the school who is taking over now that Lumpkin has retired. The school hired Karen Blumenthal, a onetime bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, to work with the 12 students as an editor on the TCU side.

Lee Williams, the Star-Telegram’s managing editor for news, worked from our end to help edit the project and provide reporters and other Star-Telegram journalists to speak to the class about the world of professional journalism.

Star-Telegram editors and the TCU professors met late last year and considered 12 possibilities before settling on an examination of the way civil asset seizure laws work — an idea Williams had because of a drug bust on campus a couple of years ago.

The students got a lot of real-life journalism lessons out of participating in this project, which I would rate as an unqualified success and every bit as good as some of the projects our own reporters have done over the years.

I hope we’ll get the opportunity to do it again.

Jim Witt is executive editor of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7704

Twitter: @jimelvis

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