ProPublica partners with The News Outlet


(Left to right) Tim Francisco, an assistant professor of English; Stephen Engelberg, managing editor of ProPublica; and Caitlin Cook, a journalism student, discuss the collaboration between the news website and YSU. Photo by Dustin Livesay/The Jambar.

This semester, The News Outlet at Youngstown State University will collaborate with ProPublica, an independent newsroom that produces investigative journalism. The collaboration is the first of its kind between ProPublica and a college journalism program.

Stephen Engelberg, the managing editor of ProPublica, met with journalism students enrolled in the Advanced News Reporting course and News Outlet interns to discuss their next project, Dollars for Docs.

“One of the nice things about getting out to a journalism school is to see how much enthusiasm and energy there still is for people to go into this field,” Engelberg said.

ProPublica has done prior work on Dollars for Docs. YSU students involved in the collaboration will localize the ProPublica research by investigating area doctors and health care.

Most of the collaboration has been through technological means, and Wednesday’s visit was Engelberg’s first time at YSU. He doesn’t know if he will have another chance to come back, but said he will continue communication through Skype.

“It’s an interesting experiment for us,” Engelberg said.

Alyssa Lenhoff, co-director of The News Outlet and director of the journalism program at YSU, worked to set up this fall’s ProPublica collaboration.

Tim Francisco, co-director of The News Outlet and an assistant professor of English, suggested the idea to Lenhoff in the spring. After contacting Engelberg to propose the idea, Lenhoff flew to New York City, where ProPublica is located, to convince Engelberg to participate.

“I like the fact that Alyssa and Tim Francisco always come up with ideas to keep the department fresh,” said Jay Horkey, a junior journalism major.

This semester, the Advanced News Reporting course is being run through The News Outlet. Students in the class will have three projects to work on.

They are at the tail end of their first project, a look into local nursing homes.

Next is Dollars for Docs, which will be the main focus of the ProPublica collaboration. Lenhoff said the last project in the class is still undetermined.

“[ProPublica has] been incredible,” Lenhoff said. “We feel very fortunate and honored, and I think it’s an awesome opportunity for the students and the university.”