BLOG RECAP: Business Investigation Tips from AP Reporter Matt Apuzzo

April 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Briana Darensburg
bdarensbur@smu.edu

Matt Apuzzo, AP reporter and a member of the Washington investigative team, spoke about the process and helpful hints to report an investigative piece at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Annual Conference. Apuzzo used personal anecdotes and analogies to explain how a reporter should approach, research and execute an investigative piece.

Apuzzo started the lecture with his explanation as to why he is passionate about investigative journalism. He believes that business investigations can show you how to do “distinctive journalism,” which is what he thinks our business [journalism] is counting on to survive.

Apuzzo separated the investigative reporting process into three sections.

Approach

Apuzzo said that most of the time, people don’t even know where to begin on reporting an investigative story.

“I think we need to stop thinking in terms of targets and start thinking in terms of questions; leave the targets up to the FBI. We’re in the answering questions business,” said Apuzzo.

He explained that when you focus on a question, it will narrow your subject and provide a starting place for your research.
But he also warned reporters of the nay-sayers in the news rooms. You know, the people that hear an idea and immediately say, “That’s impossible,” or “we’ve already written that.” Apuzzo claims that these are just defense mechanisms and to let them go into one ear and out of the other.

“Is it hard? Yes! Is it impossible? No,” said Apuzzo.

Research

Apuzzo emphasized the importance of knowing how the business operates before you start investigating. “If you know how the machinery works, you’re going to get the story,” said Apuzzo.

Knowing how the business runs will help you find out the people you need to interview; although Apuzzo prefers a more relaxed approach to finding out information.

He says to build a network of people who know about the business, but it should be casual.

“If I want to talk to you, I’m going to your house or to a bar, not at work. It’s against our instincts to bother someone at home, but it’s against their instincts to throw you off their porch,” said Apuzzo.

Execution

This is the time in the process where you have a story and know information, but you need the documentation or quote to prove it.
Apuzzo explained how there is power in a document or an email because it is almost always refutable. “Just assume everything you want is written down; even the mob writes stuff down.”

He admitted that he loves to get people’s calendars of everything they’ve done because it is a paper trail for what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with.

And when it’s time to get the interview (or have that conversation) with that ex-employee or the ex-spouse, try and have it at a bar. Apuzzo explained that people don’t want to be interrogated, but they will be willing to give you information if you just simply have a conversation with them.

Coach Doherty’s Lunch With SMU Students

January 24, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Briana Darensburg
bdarensbur@smu.edu

Student fans gathered for lunch with the men’s basketball coach Matt Doherty at the Umphrey Lee ROFC. This is the first of several scheduled ‘Lunch with Doh’ events in an attempt to draw in more fans to the home basketball games. Students enjoyed insight about upcoming games with Coach Doherty and senior basketball player, Papa Dia.

What’s Wrong With Being Second?

May 4, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Briana Darensburg
bdarensbur@smu.edu

Narcissistic, lazy and spoiled are just a few of the characteristics that some may use to describe Generation Y. From social networking sites that are used as virtual ego inflators to the instant-fame obsessed culture, it’s no wonder people have diagnosed the Millennials as “overdosed on self-esteem.”

However, there is a new counterculture movement called I AM SECOND and it has leaked onto the SMU campus. According to their website, the organization is meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others.

Representatives from the nationwide movement range from athletes like former University of Texas quarterback, Colt McCoy, to American Idol’s Jason Castro, to the every day person.

The movement uses short videos of personal testimonies that deal with the typical struggles of everyday living.

SMU junior James Parker saw the need for a group that empowers students to live for something greater than them—to be second. He decided to begin the first I AM SECOND group early this spring in the Mary Hay Hall.

“I see this [group] not just as a Christian thing, but for each other,” Parker said.

Although James is well-connected with students as a resident advisor and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, he didn’t know what to expect the first meeting.

“I thought maybe six or seven students would show up, but when I opened the door, it was like a roar,” Parker said.

To his surprise, nearly 30 students showed up at the first meeting.

Perhaps SMU students have their own perceptions of religious based groups, but Parker said that the I AM SECOND group on campus is not what you may think. On the group’s Facebook page is a disclaimer stating, “I AM SECOND is not: a bible study, church group, youth group or whatever.”

Due to the success of the group, four other resident halls now host a discussion group. The meetings consist of watching an I AM SECOND video and then discussing how it relates to your life.

The discussion groups not only talk about students’ personal struggles but how they are able to become second to God.

Group leader Evan Taylor said he envisions the group volunteering together so they can grow closer.

“We are community-based and about each other,” Taylor said.

Freshman Kacey Nelson, a participant in the group agrees that helping others should be something people focus more time on.

“I don’t think people spend enough time helping others,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t even have to be religious.”

Although the I AM SECOND group on campus is rooted in Christian values, the group strives to be inclusive and welcomes people from all religions to attend the meetings.

Nelson said that the group does not allow people to be judgmental and Taylor said students will not feel out of place.

“I just want SMU to know that this is a safe place,” Taylor said “No one would be bashed for their beliefs.”

With a selfless movement like I AM SECOND on the rise, it is unclear as to whether some Generation Y stereotypes are warranted. In fact, the Pew Research Center conducted a report on the values, attitudes and behaviors of Millennials.

The study found that the things Millennials value in life mirror the things older generations value. Family matters most and fame and fortune are much less important.

Journalism professor at SMU, Jake Batsell, also argues against Generation Y stereotypes in his recent blog post titled, “Journalism’s Next Generation: Working with Millennials.” Batsell claims that SMU journalism students actually want to make a difference.

“They want to use their multi-platform storytelling skills to do some good,” Batsell said.

Helping others has certainly become a trend at SMU.

“Two recent SMU grads spent part of last summer reporting and blogging from Romanian orphanages and one of our recent alums helped start an orphanage in Uganda,” wrote Batsell.

There are many different opportunities to ‘be second’ and make a difference at SMU. If you would like to get involved with the I AM SECOND’ group on campus, they hold meetings at Perkins Hall, Mary Hay Hall, Virginia Snider Hall, Shuttles Hall and Morrison-McGinnis Hall.

You can check out their website for SMU students for more information.