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Reporting that matters

April 13, 2021

Cronkite School taps investigative reporter, editor and publisher for Schatt Memorial Lecture

Some of the best investigative stories are “hiding in plain sight” and buried just beneath the surface, but the details need to be gold-panned from the stream through documents, records and data, according to Fernando Diaz, a visiting professor at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“For me, it’s really about reading between the lines. It’s being a voracious consumer of news and looking for holes, and then over time developing a sense of, ‘Is that a story or is it going to be done by the time I get my shoes on?’” said Diaz, the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Investigative Journalism. “It might be just trying to find a hole or an opportunity to fill. Or it might just be satisfying your own personal curiosity, but it could end up leading to a major investigation.”

Diaz’s Zoom presentation, “Investigative Reporting That Matters,” was part of the spring 2021 “Must See Mondays” lecture series hosted by the Cronkite School.

“Fernando’s work has consistently sought to expose systemic racial and economic injustice. As our country becomes more polarized and disparities between rich and poor grow, we need more incisive investigative reporting like his,” said Lauren Mucciolo, executive producer of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, who moderated the Paul J. Schatt Memorial Lecture on April 12.

The Schatt series was started in 2007 to honor the late Paul Schatt, who was a reporter, editor and columnist for the Arizona Republic for five decades and an adjunct professor at the Cronkite School who taught public affairs reporting for three decades.

The series is funded by an endowment created by his widow Laura Schatt-Thede and an annual gift from the Arizona Republic.

Two people talking during a Zoom presentation

Lauren Mucciolo, executive producer of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at ASU (left), talks with Fernando Diaz, the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Investigative Journalism on April 12 for the Paul J. Schatt Memorial Lecture, during the Cronkite School’s Must See Mondays webcast. Diaz has crisscrossed the country through his career, beginning as an intern at the Chicago Reporter and ending up there again as publisher. The two spoke on topics such as the continued need for diversity in journalism, mentorship and how to file a FOIA request.

Diaz offered insights on his work, career and the current state of investigative reporting, especially in areas of race, poverty and income inequality. Diaz, a first-generation American, has worked in a variety of roles at many newspapers and nonprofit news organizations, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Reporter. Diaz is a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors as well as a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He said good journalists are not complacent and are not afraid to relocate to improve their craft.

“I’ve had a very itinerant career, and I think that’s been a blessing and a curse,” said Diaz, who in addition to being an investigative reporter has been a multimedia journalist, editor and publisher. “One of the things you can do as a journalist is move around a lot. I tended to get picked up or find something new … I figured if I stayed, I might get better as an investigative reporter but may not have an opportunity to do things like audience engagement or production or interactive.”

Diaz, who has written stories to expose injustice, hold people in power accountable and improve the lives of others in his community, said there is room for improvement in newsrooms regarding diversity.

“I’ll try not to make very many assumptions but we can all appreciate that there is a lack of diversity in journalism. What we have is a lack of parity,” Diaz said. “I can realistically count all of the (diverse) editors in investigative journalism that I know on both hands, and have fingers left over. Then you go to executive directors, publishers and CEOs, and I think I know them all – and I still have fingers left over.”

Diaz said the only way to change this dynamic is to create spaces for men and women of color and hire them in key positions.

“The last 15 years of our industry we’ve been so focused on fixing the problem and we still haven’t fixed it,” Diaz said. “We need on-ramps.”

Diaz pivoted from the newsroom to academia in 2020 when he was hired by the Cronkite School to teach investigative skills and long-form storytelling, and to help get students’ work published at news organizations such as the Arizona Republic. He said it’s been a pleasant surprise so far.

“I didn’t expect to go into teaching and then this opportunity came up and it really spoke to me in ways that I have never really thought of before,” Diaz said.

As for students, Diaz said they should focus on doing good work under people who will bring out the best in them, develop key relationships throughout their career, and enjoy the ride.

“The thing is the jobs that you’re going to end up having is a stage in your journey,” Diaz said. “The point is not completing the journey. The point is embracing the journey and learning from those stages because each of those stages, whether it’s a person or a technique or a community is going to teach you something different."

His other advice: "If the door closes, find a window. If the window closes, find a back door. If all the doors and windows are closed, build your own house.”

Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images.

Reporter , ASU News

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ASU team trains first crime analysts in 9 Caribbean nations

ASU team trains first crime analysts in 9 Caribbean nations.
April 13, 2021

Professors teach law enforcement how to collect, analyze data to fight crime

Two Arizona State University professors have trained the first crime analysts from nine small Caribbean nations.

Charles Katz, the Watts Family Director of the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, and Wendy Wolfersteig, director of the Office of Evaluation and Partner Contracts at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, spent the past several months teaching methods of crime analysis to several dozen people whose countries have never used data techniques to fight crime before.

The trainees were from Trinidad and Tobago; Suriname; Guyana; Grenada; St. Kitts and Nevis; Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and St. Lucia.

Those countries have police officers and law-enforcement officials, but no organized collection or analysis of crime data, said Wolfersteig, who also is an associate research professor in the School of Social Work.

“It was ‘boots on the ground,’ day-to-day work and not that evaluation and analysis of the overall picture of events that were occurring, and what the data tell us,” she said.

Crime analysts have three general functions, Katz said.

“One is the administrative function – being aware of how many crimes occur by day, by month, what types of crimes occur. Those are simple things to let you know what a problem looks like from 20,000 feet,” he said.

Second, tactical crime analysis can help police manage when and where crimes might occur.

“It’s who to look for, a wanted person or a serial burglar, the time periods and days of the week,” he said.

Lastly, strategic crime analysis can help law enforcement address larger problems.

“For example, if there’s a problem with domestic violence in a community, they can use this information to develop multiple responses,” said Katz, who has worked with Caribbean nations to address gang problems.

Katz and Wolfersteig originally started the training in person in Barbados, but the pandemic forced the project to go remote.

The project was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which supports U.S. foreign policy and advances national security, and the United Nations Development Programme, which works to eradicate poverty. The agencies wanted to create an official online reporting mechanism to pinpoint criminal incident data in the Caribbean region, Katz said.

“Let’s say your car is stolen in Phoenix. The police come, fill out a report, type it into the computer and create an official report,” he said.

“These Caribbean nations didn’t have that. They had to develop a form with the same definitions across the countries. They needed common definitions, and our job was to show them how to extract and analyze the data.

“Some of these nations do not have the infrastructure that we are used to in terms of internet accessibility, and it was tough on them.”

In order to make the project sustainable, Wolfersteig taught five people to be trainers themselves.

“My office has done quite a bit of work with community groups, helping people to not only understand crime and other data but teaching them how to do their own work and continue that work,” said Wolfersteig, whose office works with partners to design and perform evaluations, provide trainings and disseminate findings.

She taught the trainers how to be facilitators.

“What does it mean to facilitate learning? You don’t want to just lecture, you want to teach them how to interact with people,” she said.

Katz has trained crime analysts locally and in other countries, including Honduras. From 2004 to 2010, he worked with the Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to develop a comprehensive plan to reform police services, including adding crime analysts.

“We started with one guy in Trinidad in 2008 and now they have 40 people,” he said.

“Not even all U.S. police agencies have crime analysts because it’s expensive.”

Sadio Harris, operations manager for the Regional Crime Observatory in Barbados, was trained by the ASU team to become a trainer.

"As I took the course, the concept of 'adult learning' was embedded within my consciousness as a mechanism to associate new knowledge and information to previously learned information and experiences," he said.

"I have no doubt that this new association technique, buttressed by the different types of learning styles, such as auditory, visual and kinesthetic, will enhance the Regional Crime Observatory's communication strategy.

"The RCO team is now capable of training its regional membership in the use of crime mapping, evidence-based policing, tactical, strategic and administrative crime analysis, which adds a new dimension to crime reporting."

Additional reporting by Mark Scarp, media relations officer for the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Top image of St. George, Grenada. Courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News

480-727-4503