- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Urbana, Illinois
- Personal Website
Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Brant Houston leads efforts nationally and internationally to find new forms and models for investigative and enterprise reporting.
Brant Houston, the executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. (IRE), was named to the chair in May 2007. He succeeds Bill Gaines, who held the post since it was established in 2000.
The department's long tradition of emphasis on professional journalism will serve as the underpinning for the Knight Chair in Journalism. The program's resources will be used to teach practical application of investigative techniques through courses, workshops and seminars. Training will encompass print, broadcasting and digital media and will be extended outside the university to staffs of newsrooms and citizens. It will include services to the international press in countries where investigative techniques are developing. As a result of the teaching and research of the Knight Chair, Illinois will serve as a new resource for investigative reporters and editors nationally, as a well as a training center for young journalists and as an intellectual center for the public on issues involving the news media in investigative journalism.
The continued growth and success of the community news site, CU-CitizenAccess.org, which includes investigative and enterprise reporting with a focus on socioeconomic issues. The project, which was initiated with a Knight Community Information Challenge grant and funds from a local foundation and the University of Illinois, has produced content for the regional NPR station and the county newspaper, the News-Gazette. More than 30 students have contributed as has a small professional staff. The project has won state awards and its continued coverage of restaurant inspections has resulted in the county health department putting more on line. The number of unique visitors is 21,600 through the first nine months of the year, compared to 14,300 during the same period last year.
The continued growth and success of the Investigative News Network of which I am the chair of the board of directors and a co-founder. In three years, the Network has increased from 20 or so nonprofit newsrooms to 70 and the Network is providing Web and administrative services, business training, editorial collaboration and distribution opportunities to the member organizations, which has created widening community and regional coverage and increasing collaborations with public broadcasting.
The creation of the Investigative Journalism Education Consortium, which brings together professors at Midwest universities who teach investigative journalism. The consortium produced a wide ranging project involving six universities and their students that revealed shortcomings in mental health treatment across campuses.
Question-and-Answer with Knight Chair
State of the industry: What disturbs you most about journalism and the media industry today? What excites you most?
I continued to be concerned about the lack of substantial and sustainability funding for investigative journalism both in the U.S. and globally. On the other hand, the creation of nonprofit newsrooms to do investigative work by dedicated journalists continues to be inspirational as does their embracing of innovative digital techniques and data analysis as a natural part of their reporting.
Teaching the profession: What do you do to bring the newsroom into your classroom? How do your students learn about current journalism practices?
I bring more than 35 years of journalism experience, 25 years of doing data analysis for stories and nearly 20 years of teaching experience. Most of all, I bring an enduring enthusiasm for journalism and openness to new ideas and techniques. By students learn about journalism by practicing it by doing stories and research.
Media Innovation: Do you think journalism programs should keep up with the quickening pace of change in the industry? How can they? What is your approach?
Journalism programs must keep up with the changes in the industry and in fact take a leadership road. This is difficult in a slow-moving academic environment but it must be done. They can do this by bring outside speakers from different professions, having guest lecturers and working with other disciplines. The best way to do this is through projects rather than waiting for formal curriculum change. This is my approach.