As the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism prepares to open in fall 2019, the center is aiming to recruit students from multiple disciplines while bringing on top talent from the field of investigative journalism.
Maud Beelman, who is the founding executive editor of the Howard Center at ASU, was the award-winning U.S. investigations editor for the Associated Press.
Members of the program and other leadership at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication said the center will benefit from Beelman's history in the field of investigative journalism and her proven track record with leading new organizations.
Beelman said she has more than 20 years of experience in editing investigative projects and has been working in the journalism industry since her first paid journalism job in 1980.
“It’s not to say I’m the best, it’s just that you know, you learn through trial and error, and I have a lot of trial and error that I can teach people,” she said. “I have a few tricks of the trade and maybe I can give (students) a few things that will shortcut their experience.”
Beelman has a background in building institutions from the ground up, as she is also the founding director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The ICIJ is global network of journalists that work to uncover important stories around the world.
“I’m proud that ICIJ is strong and successful after all these years, and I’m confident that the Howard Center will be the same,” she said.
Leonard Downie Jr., the Weil Family professor of journalism and former executive editor and vice president of The Washington Post, was a part of the search committee for a founding executive editor and said that, while there were many good candidates, Beelman stood out.
“Maud just stood out to all of us because of her investigative reporting experience, and because she’s already started something from scratch with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,” said Downie, who will be teaching a course in accountability journalism for the center.
Kristin Gilger, senior associate dean for the Cronkite school, said she feels secure having Beelman as the founding executive editor of the center.
“I mean, she’s just one of the top investigative editors in the country,” Gilger said. “We feel very confident that the program is going to be in good hands.”
Sarah Cohen, the Knight chair in data journalism and a faculty member who will be teaching a data journalism class for the center, said she believes working with Beelman will be a positive experience.
“She’s been known as a really collaborative investigative editor and I know people who have worked with her and worked for her in the past who just love working with her," Cohen said. "So I’m looking forward to it."
Beelman said one of the reasons she finds the Howard Center to be unique is because of the focus the center has on “career switchers,” or people who are coming into journalism with expertise from a different field.
“That’s quite unique and I’m really excited to be a part of that because I think that can enrich journalism quite a bit,” Beelman said.
Gilger said the program at the Howard Center will look for people that have expertise in other fields, which is something that is not usually done in journalism education.
“It will be very interdisciplinary in that sense, so we have people coming in who have expertise in paleontology, someone who has expertise in counseling and people who have degrees in law,” she said. "That really is going to make it a richer experience."
Cohen said the center is hoping to draw as much as a third of its students from other fields.
“It’s really kind of from all over, different kinds of people who are really interested in getting into investigative reporting who come from other worlds,” she said.
Downie said his course on accountability journalism will introduce students to the idea of investigative journalism, the history behind it and more. He said this course is necessary because many students will be coming from other fields and may not be familiar with the background of investigative journalism.
“We’ll study some of the investigative reporting projects that have been done by the news media as a way of looking at how you do it,” he said.
Amid the increase in the number of outlets that provide people information, Beelman said investigative reporting is the way to cut through the misinformation and provide clarity for audiences.
“Good investigative reporting can change bad systems, it can change single lives and it can change people's perceptions of reality,” she said.