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Medill Investigative Labs

In the Medill Investigative Labs, you learn to think, research and write like an investigative reporter and publish groundbreaking stories.

About the specialization

Through the Medill Investigative Labs, you will learn by doing. Students collaborate with a team of peers, faculty and professionals to determine story topics, develop sources, research, interview, and then write stories that shed light on critical issues. Your work may be published in a variety of outlets, including The Washington Post or ProPublica. These published clips will form the foundation for your professional portfolio, demonstrating your real-world journalism experience.

Medill offers two options in the Investigative Reporting Specialization:

  • Medill Investigative Lab D.C.: Spend two quarters in Chicago learning critical reporting and writing skills, then head to Medill’s campus in Washington, D.C., to put your knowledge to work in the nation’s capitol. The Medill Investigative Lab D.C. is led by Debbie Cenziper; for examples of stories her student have produced, visit the Medill Investigative Lab D.C. website. Students interested in the D.C. Lab should have internship or professional journalism experience.
  • Medill Investigative Lab Chicago: Spend four quarters at Medill’s campus in Chicago, building reporting and writing experience. The spring and summer quarters will be spent reporting on investigations based in the city, regionally or nationally. The Medill Investigative Lab Chicago is led by Kari Lydersen. Students' work has appeared in publications such as the Concord Monitor, and Great Lakes Now.

Why Medill Investigative Labs?

Investigative skills are crucial to covering any beat or topic. Professional journalists who succeed in investigative reporting win Pulitzer Prizes, change laws and improve people’s lives. You will work side-by-side with veteran journalists on investigations of national importance. The investigative skills you learn in either of the Labs will serve you well in your career no matter what area of journalism you pursue.

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 investigative stories that matter. You will learn how to find and research important investigative stories, particularly how to obtain public records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and how to dig deep into data. You will develop skills in sourcing, interviewing and data visualization. You will learn in real-time, working side-by-side with award-winning investigative reporters. Outside the classroom, you’ll put your skills to work either pursuing stories in Washington, D.C., Chicago or elsewhere.

Your Medill Experience

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You will spend the fall and winter quarters in Chicago, taking foundational courses in news reporting, ethics and law, and interactive storytelling. Then, you will either spend the spring and summer quarters in Washington, D.C. or Chicago, taking courses on investigative practices and techniques and doing deep project-based investigative reporting work as part of a team.

Learn about the Medill Investigative Labs curriculum
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During your first two quarters, you’ll spend time in in our downtown Chicago newsroom and also get to know some of the city’s many iconic locations. The downtown Chicago campus puts you near courthouses and important government buildings with easy access to a diverse array of neighborhoods.

Learn about Medill’s Chicago campus
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Preparing for a career

Investigative journalists are in high demand at media organizations of all types, from traditional newspapers to digital outlets to nonprofit investigative organizations. Prepare during your time at Medill for your career moves.

Learn about Medill's Career Development and Advising
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Medill Network

By completing your degree, you will also become part of Medill’s alumni network with more than 18,000 Medill alumni worldwide. Wherever you go in your career, chances are Medill alumni are already there, willing and able to help you succeed.

Learn about the Medill Network
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Reporting Opportunities

You have the opportunity to interact with newsmakers and other sources through in-depth reporting.

See articles students have published
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Medill Fridays

Our Medill Fridays program will help you prepare for your career through a variety of topical discussions, workshops and guest speakers.

Learn about Medill Fridays

Our Faculty

Headshot of Debbie Cenziper

Debbie Cenziper

Cenziper oversees Medill Investigative Lab D.C. and is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and nonfiction author who writes for ProPublica. Her investigative stories have exposed wrongdoing, prompted Congressional hearings and led to changes in federal and local laws. Most recently, she was a lead reporter on the groundbreaking Pandora Papers, a worldwide collaboration that exposed how the secretive world of offshore finance benefits the rich and powerful.

View Cenziper's Bio
Headshot of Kari Lydersen

Kari Lydersen

Lydersen leads Medill Investigative Lab Chicago. She also works as a reporter, covering energy for Midwest Energy News and freelancing. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Guardian.

View Lydersen's Bio
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Doreen Weisenhaus

Weisenhaus is a senior lecturer and director of the Media Law and Policy Initiative at Medill with a joint appointment at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law. Prior to joining Northwestern, she taught media law and ethics at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong (2000-2017) and directed the Media Law Project, an educational resource for students, scholars, lawyers, journalists and other media professionals.

View Weisenhaus' Bio

Our Alumni

Kate Morrissey

Kate Morrissey (MSJ15)

Senior Reporter

Morrissey’s journalism career began with an internship at The Star newspaper in Johannesburg, South Africa. She started working at The San Diego Union Tribune in 2016 where she now covers the immigration beat. She has focused on investigating the U.S. asylum system as well as immigration detention centers.

Mauricio Pena

Mauricio Pena (MSJ14)

Education Reporter

Pena began his career as a breaking news reporter for DNAinfo Chicago, before moving on to work as an investigative reporter at the Desert Sun. There he covered immigration and equality issues in the Coachella Valley. Pena also worked as an associate digital editor at Chicago magazine. Most recently, he was a founding reporter at a nonprofit, independent newsroom called Block Club Chicago, which is dedicated to delivering reliable, nonpartisan and essential coverage of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.

Learn more about Pena
John Templon

John Templon (MSJ09)

Investigative Data Journalist

Templon is an investigative journalist who uses data analysis to unlock the world's secrets. He has covered stories ranging from match-fixing in tennis to how U.S. immigration policy hurts certain immigrant populations. He uses a combination of computer programming, manual data curation and open records—along with traditional reporting methods—to break open important stories.