Arnolt Center master’s students reflect on their investigative reporting experiences

The first group of master’s students pursuing concentrations in investigative reporting graduated this month. The students had programlong access to The Media School’s Michael I. Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism, including working with center partners Gray Television and the USA Today Network.

Master’s graduates Lauren Davis, Daniela Molina and Brianna Lanham attributed much of their personal and professional growth to the opportunities granted to them thanks to the center.

Molina, who in January acquired a full-time investigative producer position with Gray TV’s national team, said her two years working with the center were some of her most rewarding.

“It was just so awesome to know that we can always depend on one another,” Molina said of her fellow graduate students in the Arnolt Center. “And honestly, I have to give kudos to Kathleen Johnston. As the director she has done such a great job of making sure everyone feels at home.”

The Arnolt Center facilitates experiential learning for students seeking investigative reporting careers.

“I didn’t know how to work an Excel sheet before grad school, and now I’m a data producer for a broadcast station?” Lanham said, laughing. “The Arnolt Center has a lot of opportunities to grow.”

Lanham will begin as an investigative and data producer for Fox 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV in June. She said she is excited to take what she has learned at the Arnolt Center to her next step.

The Arnolt Center offers an environment for students passionate about investigative reporting to grow as a group, Molina said. She also applauded its role in growing her leadership abilities.

“I really enjoyed that we would have these monthly meetings with undergraduate and graduate students where we sat down and talked about the stories we would be working on,” Molina said.

One of Molina’s favorite parts of working with the Arnolt Center was being able to lead undergraduates to develop and grow as reporters, she said.

The team atmosphere in the Arnolt Center newsroom was also a positive for Davis.

“Because the program is small, the relationships I’ve made with my cohort, I think that’s going to be something I cherish forever,” Lanham said. “I made very lasting friendships through my cohort and it’s exciting to think that these are people I’m going to know for the rest of my life or potentially work with in the future in the industry.”

The four students in her cohort were able to grow as people, journalists and as a team, Lanham said.

“I spent most of my time living and breathing the Arnolt Center,” Davis said.

Davis went directly from college to graduate school, and she said she chose IU for its ability to catalyze her growth as an investigative journalist.

Molina, Davis, Lanham and Jackson Hicks interned with Gray TV’s investigative reporting team during their program. Hicks also interned at KAIT-TV — a Gray station — in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The students practiced compiling data, requesting records, writing web copy and collaborating with professional journalists.

Much of the master’s curriculum is hands-on, Davis said, and the Arnolt Center allows students to learn from stars in the industry.

“We’re getting to see people get opportunities through this to help them grow and blossom and become better and stronger journalists,” Davis said. “I think that’s just such a pivotal part of the Arnolt Center — you get to learn and grow in a great learning environment but that center helps boost you and your professional ability and that career world.”

The hard skills and networking opportunities afforded students through the Center are unmatched, Davis said.

“My favorite part about the Arnolt Center is that you get to have collaborative teamwork with not only leaders in the investigative industry but also with your classmates,” Davis said. “You get that hands-on experience that you will never get anywhere else inside a classroom.”