Investigative Journalism & Accountability Coverage

Journalists have historically held institutions accountable through the daily monitoring of beat reporting and deep digging of investigative reporting. Center faculty are exploring ways to preserve and protect this critical function of journalism, through new coursework, a professional training conference and through interviews and lectures with investigative reporters.


New Course, Spring 2012

Investigative Reporting, PUBPOL 195S.18, taught by Sarah Cohen (Duke), and Ryan Thornburg (UNC)

This seminar is a wide-ranging introduction to the essential elements of investigative reporting, from core skills to its role in a democratic society. Students will acquire essential in-depth reporting skills by reporting, writing and producing an online investigative series or story. The reporting will be supplemented by readings and seminars that deconstruct exemplary stories to illustrate key standards, concepts and elements of successful investigations.

Topics and activities include:

  • Reporting and writing stories in teams using combinations of human, document and data sources to produce high impact work
  • Production skills for multimedia projects, including visualizations and interactive elements
  • Core computer-assisted reporting techniques

Students will conduct interviews; visit government officials; identify document and data trails and acquire public records; and work in teams to produce a finished story. Stories will be pitched for publication by the Reese Felts Digital Newsroom or other appropriate news outlets.


2012 IRE CAR (Investigative Reporters and Editors, Computer-Assisted Reporting) Conference, St. Louis, MO, February 23 – 26, 2012.

The Reporters’ Lab, a research program of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, is pleased to help sponsor this conference, which annually gathers top journalists in computer-assisted and investigative reporting. Conference sessions will cover cutting-edge technology for reporting, data analysis, data visualization, creating interactive tools.  Professor Sarah Cohen, who leads the Reporters’ Lab, as well as the Lab’s lead developer Charlie Szymanski and managing editor Tyler Dukes, will lead sessions at the conference.   Duke students may request funding support to attend the conference, and should contact Shelley Stonecipher if interested.


special lectures and events

Numerous investigative reporters visit the Duke campus to give public talks and meet with students, through the Rutherfurd Living History Program, the annual Ewing Lecture on Ethics in Journalism, classroom speakers, brownbag lunches and other programs and events.  If you would like to attend these events, contact Shelley Stonecipher.

Recent events have included:

Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post
Class speaker

Barton Gellman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Washington Post
Class speaker and student lunch

Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author
Topic: Investigating Big Oil: Spin, Ethics and Corporate Responsibility in an Age of Multinationals
2012-13 Ewing Lecture on Ethics in Journalism

John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent , CNBC
Class speaker and student lunch

Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama
Class speaker and student lunch

Jane Mayer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, The New Yorker
Topic: Journalism and the War on Terror: Reporting from the “Dark Side.”
2010-11 Ewing Lecture on Ethics in Journalism, Rutherfurd Living History Interview, October 25, 2010

James B. Steele, Vanity Fair
Class speaker and brown bag lunch, April 20, 2010

Mark Mazzetti, Pulitzer Prize-winning national security correspondent, New York Times
With Phil Bennett on Office Hours, on Reporting Government Secrets (January 28, 2011), class speaker on WikiLeaks (November 22, 2010), Futrell Award talk (April 12, 2009)

David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief, The New York Times
Student lunch and public talk: Read My Lips: The Coming Battle Over Taxes March 18-19, 2010

Dana Priest, Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Reporter and Author
Topic:  Adventures in Journalism: From Secret CIA Prisons to Walter Reed
2009-10 Ewing Lecture on Ethics in Journalism, Rutherfurd Living History Interview, October 19, 2009

Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Reporter and Author
Rutherfurd Living History Interview, October 13, 2009