Strategic plan

2023-26 Strategic Plan

The Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism


The Arnolt Center is an independent newsroom at Indiana University that helps college students develop investigative reporting knowledge and skills to inform the public and strengthen democracy. Through partnerships with independent news organizations, the center positions students to collaborate with professional journalists and learn from them.


Report diligently. Uncover injustice. Instigate change.


We seek the truth through accurate, ethical journalism.



To contribute to a stronger Indiana and a healthy American society through student-led investigative journalism produced in collaboration with faculty members.


  • Graduates who have worked at the center thrive in professional careers that require demonstrated critical thinking, communication, and ethical skills.
  • Professional news organizations nationally view the center as a respected newsroom partner in major reporting investigations.
  • The Media School treats the center as a prized asset that makes the school’s master’s program a top choice for students.
  • The center forges sustainable financial and operating models to ensure the relevance and continuity of its student-led journalism.




  1. Increase the center’s capacity for producing investigative projects that serve Indiana and the nation, focusing on holding government officials accountable and unearthing social injustices.


Related tactics:


  • Widely share the center’s journalism provided free of charge to media outlets for publication or broadcast, including with news organizations beyond immediate partner organizations to the extent possible. Develop a baseline for story carriage, pickups, and mentions, measure audience size and the coverage’s geographic reach, and achieve year-over-year growth.
  • Prioritize working with news organizations developing mobile and digital channels to reach marginalized audiences. Track the use of multimedia storytelling and distribution practices that enhance project visibility, ensure accessibility for people with disabilities, and maximize audience engagement, especially among audiences that news organizations poorly serve.
  • Develop a multi-year “reporting outlook” that includes project proposals for pitching to national, regional, and local funders. At least three new nonprofit funders that guarantee editorial independence support the center’s reporting projects.
  • Evaluate the relevance of systemic racism when reporting and ensure fair and accurate portrayals of people across every racial and ethnic group, gender identity, age range, and income level. Working with affected populations and consulting best practices, develop a checklist students can use to address blind spots that could undermine reporting.
  • Track journalists’ sources’ races, ethnicities, genders, and income levels to ensure people are fairly represented. Publicly report tracking results, evaluate progress, and create improvement plans.
  • Develop racially and ethnically diverse candidate pools for hiring center staff, including student journalists, and recruiting advisory board members. Achieve racial, ethnic, age, and gender representation on the center’s advisory board, in editorial decision-making, and through storytelling consistent with the broader society the center serves. Report diversity results annually on the website.


  1. Enroll a full cohort of graduate students in the master’s program each year who aspire to news careers requiring advanced reporting knowledge, skills, and experience.


           Related tactics:

  • Conduct a competitive analysis of top-rated S. programs that award graduate degrees in investigative journalism, including a review of data on journalism salaries and student debt released by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The center offers fellowships to graduate students and hourly pay to upper-level undergrads who want to pursue careers in investigative reporting. These students follow a curriculum that allows them to gain experience in public policy, environmental issues, and business and finance. Create a value summary differentiating the center from other graduate-level immersive journalism education options. Document the extent to which all graduates find positions because of their work for the center.
  • Promote working at the center–and enrolling in the journalism master’s program–as practical, low-cost ways to gain valuable in-depth reporting experience. Create and finance a digital advertising campaign targeting people searching online for graduate degrees in investigative reporting.


  • Pursue campus partnerships that enhance the center’s value, reputation, and diversity. For example, educate the Indiana University’s Career Center staff about how graduating seniors can benefit from an affordable, applied master’s-level experience that includes working at the center. Also, work with campus entities such as Informatics, the Kelley School, and SPEA to diversify the center’s training and undergraduate student participation, enhancing the experience for students and creating a pathway to graduate journalism education. Track partnerships and create clear measures of success to evaluate effectiveness. Highlight the real-world benefits of working at the center on The Media School’s website and through the center’s social outreach.
  • Help place center alums in post-graduate work to illustrate the center’s value. Survey graduates to ensure they are finding relevant work because of investigative skills the center helped them develop. For example, graduates agree that news organizations the center collaborated with on projects offered differentiated knowledge and skill-building opportunities.
  1. Ensure that every student gains significant investigative knowledge, skills, and experience that enhance their career satisfaction.


           Related tactics:


  • Maintain reporting partnerships with professional news organizations that provide students with meaningful opportunities to learn new investigative journalism techniques and build leadership skills. Three to five such partnerships are in place, including with the Indiana Local News Initiative. Survey students and news organization partners to ensure students get meaningful learning opportunities. For example, all graduate students agree that working at the center has improved their investigative knowledge, skills, and confidence. Also, news organizations the center collaborates with agree that students have gained advanced reporting knowledge, skills, and experience and can operate professionally.
  • Ensure what students learn through their work with the center aligns with in-demand knowledge and skills influencing post-graduate career options. Faculty members advising the center agree it delivers on its promise as a learning laboratory for building investigative mindsets and skill sets consistent with The Media School’s academic goals.
  • Conduct annual workshops featuring top national journalists sharing reporting tips and professional advice. Conduct post-workshop surveys on content and process-related items to gauge satisfaction and solicit advice and suggestions.
  • Build a network for relationships among past participants in the center’s student-led reporting projects. For example, ensure graduates are aware of events and meaningful stories and create a listserv or other reliable means of communication.
  1. Make the center financially sustainable, with appropriate staffing and space on campus.


            Related tactics:


  • Create a business plan with transparency around revenues and expenses that puts the center on a path to financial success. A growth-oriented, multi-year plan should exist to support a fully funded managing editor responsible for day-to-day operations and double the number of graduate students working at the center without having to take on teaching responsibilities.


  • Adopt the best journalism and nonprofit management practices to ensure the center continually improves. For example, the center joins the Institute for Nonprofit News, and staff and students participate in training offered by INN, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and other industry leaders.


  • Revisit job descriptions for the center’s director, managing editor, and other desired positions, making a case for personnel growth. Revised descriptions and a brief case-making document exist.


  • Identify space needs and work with campus officials to secure an appropriate office. A university-supported space plan for the center with a timeline exists that can support a growing operation.


  • Work with the Media School’s development director to identify individuals and foundations that could support the center financially through project-specific or general operating support. At least three gifts greater than $10,000 have been secured. All donations to the center must be publicly disclosed.


  • Launch a periodic e-newsletter with a director’s note and curated content to build a donor audience for the center’s project work. The newsletter goes out regularly to 200+ when a new project launches or there’s something to say.