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Social Justice and Investigative Reporting

Telling untold stories of people who are disenfranchised, vulnerable or oppressed shines the light on injustice and inequality. If you’re passionate about social justice and exposing wrongdoing, this is the specialization for you. Building upon Medill’s foundation of solid reporting skills, you’ll learn how to conduct interviews, dig deeply and ultimately produce journalism that can make a real difference in Chicago and beyond.

About the Social Justice and Investigative Reporting specialization

The Social Justice and Investigative Reporting specialization focuses on journalism that makes the world a better place. Social justice issues you may explore include criminal justice, drug policy, mental health services, housing segregation, homelessness, poverty and immigration, just to name a few. On the investigative side, the possibilities are endless.

You'll produce stories for Medill News Service, which partners with news outlets to publish your work. These clips will form the basis for your portfolio, demonstrating your real-world journalism experience. Your reporting might take you to locations across the U.S. or abroad; previous classes have reported on homelessness and drug addiction in Puerto Rico and the payday loan industry in Kansas City, Missouri. You also have the opportunity to partner with the Social Justice News Nexus, working with professional fellows to produce in-depth reports on social justice issues.

You can choose to start the Social Justice and Investigative Reporting specialization in the summer or fall quarter.

Why Social Justice and Investigative Reporting?

If you’ve always wanted to find the answers to difficult societal questions and pursue stories that produce change, you can do that and more in the Social Justice and Investigative Reporting specialization.

There’s no shortage of news on this beat. Professional journalists who succeed in investigative reporting win Pulitzer Prizes, change laws, overthrow oppressive regimes and improve the lives of everyday people. You can analyze documents, interview sources and follow paper trails to investigate fraud, injustice, malfeasance and other wrongs.

What will I learn?

Inside the classroom, you’ll examine investigative reporting within a framework of history, theory and ethics. This context will provide the background you need to pursue stories that matter.

By spending much of your time outside the classroom reporting and gathering news, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of urban communities. You’ll learn to analyze diverse issues and take into account a variety of viewpoints and voices—including many not typically given a platform in the mainstream media. It’s time consuming and intense but also satisfying.

Your Medill Experience

Faculty member and student in discussion at a table.

Curriculum

You’ll be immersed in gathering, analyzing, reporting and producing news stories related to social justice and investigative journalism. Seasoned investigative journalists will pass along tried and true techniques and you'll learn the latest technology to gather and analyze information.

Learn about the curriculum
Chicago skyline at sunset.

Chicago

You’ll spend time in our downtown Chicago space but also get to know some of the city’s many neighborhoods. Downtown, panhandlers and homeless families cross paths with businesspeople and students. Protesters demonstrate in government plazas and along busy streets. These are your sources.

Learn about Medill's Chicago campus
Students filming with a camera in Cuba.

Medill Explores

Explore societal and social justices issues abroad. During a weeklong break from class in the winter quarter, faculty have led students on recent trips to Cuba and South Africa.

Learn about Medill Explores
Photo collage of different activities all over the city of Chicago for Medill Fridays.

Medill Fridays

We welcome renowned journalists on social justice storytelling, such as a recent guest, a Medill alumnus whose book was made into a TV mini-series. He gave a firsthand account of the skills you need to freelance, to be an entrepreneur and to envision additional career possibilities.

Learn about Medill Fridays
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Career Services

Investigative journalists are in high demand at traditional and non-mainstream media organizations alike. Tap into Medill’s expansive and helpful alumni network to assist you with your job search.

Learn about Career Services
Students in South Dakota at the Dakota Access Pipeline

Social Justice News Nexus

Come together with Chicago journalists and media activists to report on and probe social justice issues with guidance from our nationally known expert faculty.

Learn about Social Justice News Nexus
Students looking at files.

Medill Justice Project

Examine potentially wrongful convictions, probe national systemic criminal-justice issues and conduct groundbreaking research with guidance from faculty who are seasoned investigative journalists.

Learn about the Medill Justice Project

Our Faculty

Alex Kotlowitz

Alex Kotlowitz

Kotlowitz, a senior lecturer, is the author of three books, including the national bestseller "There Are No Children Here." A former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and on public radio’s This American Life. 

Jack Doppelt

Jack Doppelt

Trained as an attorney, Doppelt holds the Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani endowed chair at Medill. Doppelt has been on the faculty since 1986 an is an expert on social justice and immigration journalism as well as coverage of the Middle East and legal issues in journalism.

Alec Klein

Alec Klein

Formerly a reporter at The Washington Post, Klein is a nationally known expert on investigative reporting. Professor Klein is author of two nonfiction books and previously worked at The Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun and the Virginian-Pilot.

Our Alumni

Jonathan M. Katz (MSJ04)

Jonathan M. Katz
Journalist and Author
Freelance

Katz was awarded the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and subsequent cholera epidemic, which he further explored in his award-winning book. He is a regular New York Times contributor and director of the Media & Journalism Initiative at Duke University's John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.

Maudlyne Ihejirika (MSJ87)

Maudlyne Ihejirika
Reporter/Columnist
Chicago Sun-Times

An award-winning journalist with nearly 30 years experience in newspaper, public relations and government, Ihejirika currently pens the Sun-Times’ “Chicago Chronicles” column. Previously, she served as press secretary for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and operated a niche public relations firm.

Tara Tidwell Cullen (BSJ02)

Tara Tidwell Cullen
Director of Communications
National Immigrant Justice Center

Cullen works with the news media and leads NIJC's communications and content strategies to tell stories about the need for fair and humane immigration laws.