Skip to main content
Student photographing a lake

Medill Investigative Programs

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

About the specialization

Through the Medill Investigative Programs, you will learn by doing and practicing the skills you will need to become an investigative reporter. You will collaborate with a team to determine story topics, develop sources, research and interview, and then compile stories that shed light on critical issues. Your work may be published in a variety of publications—including major outlets such as The Washington Post—and these clips will form the basis for your portfolio, demonstrating your real-world journalism experience.

Medill offers two options for specializing in investigative reporting:

  • Medill Investigative Lab: 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 reporting in the nation’s capitol.
  • Medill Investigative Program Chicago: Spend four quarters at Medill’s Chicago campus, building reporting and writing skills and then spending two quarters on intensive investigations based in the city, regionally or nationally.

Both the Medill Investigative Lab and the Medill Investigative Program Chicago start in the summer quarter. They are exclusive opportunities that are only available to a small group of Master's students each year.

Why Medill Investigative Programs?

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 these specializations 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.

Applying to the specialization

Given the competitive nature and limited spots available in the Medill Investigative Programs, you may be admitted to the Master of Science in Journalism program but not to the investigative specializations. If this happens, we will work with you to explore your other areas of interest.

Your Medill Experience

Student interviewing woman

Curriculum

You will spend the summer and fall quarters in Chicago, taking foundational courses in news reporting, ethics and law, and interactive storytelling. Then, you will either spend the winter and spring 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 Program curriculum
Chicago skyline at sunset

Chicago

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
A career services professional works with a student on career preparation

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
Edith Chapin at Washington 50th at NPR.

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
A student records a broadcast in Washington DC

Reporting Opportunities

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

See articles students have published
A woman speaks on stage to a classroom of students

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 the Medill Investigative Lab and is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and nonfiction author who writes for The Washington Post. 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.

Headshot of Kari Lydersen

Kari Lydersen

Lydersen leads the Medill Investigative Program 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.

Headshot of Fernando Diaz

Fernando Diaz

Diaz leads the Medill Investigative Program Chicago. He has an extensive background in journalism as the former editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, a nonprofit investigative news organization that focuses on exposing systemic racial and socioeconomic injustice through data-driven journalism.

Our Alumni

Kate Morrissey (MSJ15)

Kate Morrissey
Senior Reporter
The San Diego Union-Tribune

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 (MSJ14)

Mauricio Pena
Education Reporter
Chalkbeat

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 (MSJ09)

John Templon
Investigative Data Journalist
BuzzFeed News

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.

Top