King’s journalism school has joined the National Student Investigative Reporting Network (NSIRN), a collaborative network based out of Concordia University in Montreal comprising journalism schools across Canada.
The NSIRN pools resources to investigate big, high-impact issues that many lean newsrooms today aren’t able to investigate by themselves. Last year, NSIRN participants investigated the price of oil and published a series of articles and broadcast stories related to the topic. This year’s topic is water.
“We’re harnessing the skills and resources of eight schools of journalism across the country and we’re all collaborating in what they call ‘radical sharing.’ And so we have about 100 faculty and students, including some of the best investigative people in the field, doing a very deep dive on a topic of major public interest,” explains King’s Assistant Professor and NSIRN faculty representative, Pauline Dakin.
Pauline is supervising two master of journalism (MJ) students, Megan O’Toole and Lyndsay Armstrong.
“I’m so excited to be part of something that’s so large, on a national scale. It’s different than anything I’ve done before,” Lyndsay says.
Megan explains that everyone uses online tools and forums to share their research and interview notes. “We’re speaking pretty much every day with the rest of the people in the country working on the project…We’re all on top of what each other is doing,” she says.
This is a shift in journalistic practice, which historically has been more guarded and competitive, and it’s a way to look at the big picture rather than a narrow slice of a particular issue. Both Pauline and her students herald it as the future of journalism, not only because of resource pooling but because it features solutions journalism.
“It’s not just telling people what’s wrong with the world. It’s insight into fixes,” Pauline says.
Patti Sonntag, a former managing editor with The New York Times, is the NSIRN lead at Concordia. National media partners include Global News, the Toronto Star and National Observer, plus there are regional media and funding partners, too. All the participating media platforms will carry the eventual packages of stories, timed for a coordinated release in spring 2019.
“All the work will be published at the same time, on the same day, across platforms, so no one is scooping anyone. There will be a huge impact of this work across the country,” Pauline says. “Everyone will be credited with their work. It will be shared with the public in a meaningful way. It’s not just an exercise at j-school.”