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Baldwin workshop: a crash course for budding reporters

Posted June 20, 2016
By Rebekah Friedman, development coordinator
Photo: Chris Davis presents at the Baldwin Pre-Collegiate Fellowship in Business and Investigative Journalism


While many students see June as a time to unwind, 12 high school journalists spent their time learning the ins and outs of business and investigative reporting.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications hosted the Baldwin Pre-Collegiate Fellowship in Business and Investigative Journalism June 15-18. Open to just 10-12 high school students each year, the workshop provides instruction on strategic web searching, Freedom of Information Act and Open Government, cutting-edge reporting practices and data analysis. It’s been held in conjunction with the Carolina Journalism Institute since launching in 2012.

The SJMC collaborates with the Southern Interscholastic Press Association and the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association to recruit and select applicants. Organizers begin accepting applications in January, and participants are chosen in mid-May.

“Dedicated journalists from across the Southeast apply,” said Scholastic Journalism Director Leslie Dennis. “Advisers must recommend students, which adds weight to the selection process. We are really excited about the opportunity to host it in tandem with CJI and have nightly activities to enhance the intensive investigative journalism skills students learn as Fellows.”

The workshop is made possible through the Baldwin Business and Financial Journalism Endowment Fund, one of three generous gifts from alumnus and former business editor Ken Baldwin. Funds cover participants’ registration, housing, meals and materials.

Instruction is led by a team of SJMC faculty, staff and accomplished alumni. Members of this year’s team were:

  • Ernest Wiggins, a tenured associate professor of journalism at the SJMC. A former reporter and editor for The State (Columbia, S.C.) and the Columbia (S.C.) Record, Wiggins joined the faculty in 1993, returning to the school from which he’d earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degree. Wiggins has done additional postgraduate study in social structures and social networks. He and Leslie Dennis coordinate the workshop.
  • Jill Chappell-Fail is the senior information resources consultant for the College of Information and Communications. In this capacity, she provides technical support and supervises computer hardware, software, and network support for the School of Library and Information Science and the SJMC. Chappell-Fail has been with the university since 1991 and began working at SLIS in 1995. She earned her Master of Library and Information Science from SLIS in 1999. A South Carolina native, her professional experience includes work with the Hampton County Guardian, the Bamberg Advertiser-Herald and the Allendale County Citizen-Leader. She later worked as copywriter for a Columbia public relations firm, as a graphic artist for a Columbia alternative news weekly and as editor of the Greater Columbia Business Monthly Magazine. 
  • Chris Davis is assistant managing editor and head of the Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalism team at the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Davis graduated from the SJMC in 1994 and has been named one of the school’s 2016 Distinguished Alumni.
  • Chris Muldrow is the founder and CEO of Rambletype consultant firm in Fredericksburg, Va. A former newspaper editor and digital news developer, Chris is a highly accomplished executive with proven expertise developing, expanding and managing digital media and technology operations. A 1995 SJMC alumnus, Chris is an energetic leader who implements new and emerging technologies, trends and communication strategies. He has expertise in building strategic partnerships and team building, mobile technology development and content management, web development and social media.

Instructor Chris Davis says that the ubiquitous nature of information — whether accurate or not — has made sophisticated reporting skills more important than ever. That’s why initiatives such as the Baldwin workshop are needed to teach future journalists the skills necessary to succeed.

“First it was 24-hour news stations, then bloggers, now Twitter,” Davis said. “All are great for sharing the news of the day. None do a very good job of making sense of the world. That’s where investigative journalists come in. They don’t just tell you what Republicans say or what Democrats say. They try to find the truth. Then they speak that truth to power. Often they are the only shield between the bad guys and the good guys.”