Arnolt Center forms partnership with USA Today Network

A partnership between the Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism and the investigative team of USA Today gives students the opportunity for national exposure while providing the publication with resources to boost its investigations.

The partnership began about a year ago, and students have been instrumental in the team’s reporting, said Emily Le Coz, managing editor of investigations for USA Today

“I don’t feel like at any point we really thought of them as students,” she said. “They’re journalists, and so we’ve treated them as such and they’ve really risen to the challenge and been team players.”

Students have worked on building databases, getting key interviews, obtaining records and more, Le Coz said. The team has several ongoing projects and published “Lethal force? Tasers are meant to save lives, yet hundreds die after their use by police” on April 23 with contributions from Arnolt students.

“Students were a part of those projects from the beginning. They sat with us in every meeting, offered up ideas,” Le Coz said. “When we were divvying up the labor, they were taking a substantial portion of the work.”

Because of the pandemic, much of the work has been through Zoom, but students have adapted exceedingly well to that type of work environment, she said.

The collaboration is instrumental to the USA Today team, Le Coz said, because it allows for more diverse voices to contribute to investigative projects. Students gain real-world skills and connections through storytelling.

“When I was in J-school, I benefited immensely from every experience I had with a working journalist,” Le Coz said. “Any time you get to collaborate with someone who’s doing the job that you hope to do, you’re learning real experience, valuable experience.”

Stories range from statewide focus to national focus, and students contribute to each step of the storytelling process.

“I hope they kind of get that sense of pride and exhilaration from seeing their work be published and hopefully make an impact,” she said.

Le Coz and Kathleen Johnston, director of the Arnolt Center, said the partnership has been valuable for both parties.

“The Gannett partnership has been terrific,” Johnston said. “The students meet with the professionals weekly on each story and are fully in the reporting mix. We are so glad we are going to continue this partnership into the next academic year. “