Georgia Collaborative

The Georgia News Lab

Georgia Collaborative is one of the 2014 winners of the Challenge Fund. See all the winners.

Georgia Collaborative is one of the 2014-15 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. See all 12 winners and the Honorable Mentions.

The Collaborative includes Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, and University of Georgia.


Georgia State University:

  • David Armstrong, Georgia News Lab, Project Director
  • Ben Miller, Assistant Professor, Co-Director of the Second Century Initiative in New and Emerging Media
  • Colleen McEdwards, Lecturer, Anchor of World News at CNN International
  • Doug Barthlow, Senior Lecturer, Director, Undergraduate Studies and Internship Coordinator

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

  • Bert Roughton, Managing Editor
  • Shawn McIntosh, Deputy Managing Editor
  • John Perry, Data Specialist, investigative Team
  • Ken Foskett, Assistant Managing Editor
  • Johnny Edwards, Investigative Reporter
  • Sean Sposito, Data Specialist


  • Brad Stone, Executive Producer, Special Projects
  • Jodie Fleischer, Investigative Reporter
  • Patti DiVincenzo, Senior Database Investigative Producer
  • Erica Jorgensen, Investigative Producer, University of Georgia

University of Georgia:

  • Charles Davis, Dean, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Janice Hume, Head, Journalism Department

Clark Atlanta University:

  • Kandace Harris, Chair, Department of Mass Media Arts
  • James McJunkins, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Journalism Coordinator

Morehouse College:

  • Ron Thomas, Director, Journalism and Sports Program
  • Omar Harbison, Professor of New Media Technology

View the Georgia Collaborative project webpage here.

Describe your project as a tweet

New partnership will train students in investigative reporting & data journalism, diversify newsrooms, engage community & #hackcurriculum

What is your live news experiment?

Four Georgia universities and two major news outlets will join forces to reinvent the way in which investigative journalism is taught and delivered as The Georgia News Lab. Leading journalists and educators will work with student reporters to produce in-depth, data-driven, public service journalism across platforms and better serve their communities while increasing newsroom diversity.

This novel partnership … will help diversify newsrooms by providing young reporters with the digital skills and experience to produce major multimedia investigative stories. We will measure student progress and gauge success by student achievement, increased diversity and greater community engagement.

How is this project unique and innovative?

The project has two distinguishing features. One is that it will change the pipeline for investigative journalism in Georgia, producing a larger and more diverse pool of highly trained students. Through this unique collaboration, students will learn investigative techniques and work with top professional journalists, making them highly attractive on the job market. The community will benefit from a new cohort of investigative journalists who can shape the future of public service and accountability journalism.

The project is also distinguished by the extent of the collaboration. This partnership among the region’s top journalism programs and news outlets will allow each participating organization to benefit from the strengths of the others.

In keeping with the teaching-hospital model, students, professors and professional reporters will work together to deliver important investigative stories to the citizens of Georgia across platforms while blazing a path for the field of journalism. Over time, we envision GNL becoming a year-round investigative newsroom that, in partnership with the AJC and WSB, will develop new forms of investigative storytelling and serve the community by improving coverage of public interest issues.

How will you collaborate?

We will collaborate through a hub and spoke system.

At the center will be the GNL, headed by David Armstrong, a veteran investigative journalist and educator who has directed a collaborative investigative reporting initiative at Emory University for the past three years. Through GNL, Armstrong will oversee curriculum and coordinate investigative projects.

Partner schools will recruit prospective students and contribute facilities and resources. Faculty from partner schools will provide training in areas such as data mining, mapping and analysis, multimedia storytelling, videography, digital reporting techniques, writing across platforms, photojournalism, media law and ethics, and records access.

Media partners will contribute additional talent, resources and facilities. Reporters, editors and producers from the AJC and WSB will provide advanced training in areas such as data journalism, writing for print, online and broadcast, video editing, source development and specialized investigative techniques.

Training will take place at partner schools, media organizations, in the field, and online. Investigative projects will be selected collaboratively by GNL partner organizations.

Reporting will be coordinated through regular editorial meetings (conducted in person and online) in which students will work directly with editors and producers from the AJC and WSB to determine the overall direction of investigations.

What technology platforms will you use?

Students in the GNL will learn to use a wide range of digital investigative tools and technologies including proprietary databases, open source and proprietary apps for data extraction, cleaning, analysis and visualization, content management and information sharing systems, security tools, and professional-grade software for audio and video editing.

Students will also master a full range of social media tools and platforms. Students will publish their work on the full array of technology platforms available through WSB and the AJC. In addition, the lab will establish a website for publication of stories and building awareness of the partnership.

What are the real challenges you face in implementing this?

One challenge is logistics. With four schools and two news organizations collaborating, arranging meetings will require creativity. To address this, we will hold some class sessions, editorial meetings and guest lectures online. But we will also use our geographic diversity to advantage, capitalizing on the unique assets of each partner’s location.

These include proximity to the state capital and government agencies (GSU, Clark Atlanta and Morehouse), state-of-the-art broadcast facilities (UGA and WSB), access to top-flight data journalists (AJC and GSU), and availability of subject area experts at each partner organization.

Another challenge is story coordination. To ensure we meet the distinct needs of our media partners, we will hold regular editorial meetings to check the status of investigations and fine tune reporting assignments. While these sessions will keep projects on track, they will also allow students to significantly influence the direction of investigations and the way stories are told.

How will this project provide an educational experience for students above and beyond their current learning?

No opportunity of this type currently exists for students. Through this program, they will develop advanced reporting skills, work in professional newsrooms with first-rate reporters, receive published credit for major stories, and prepare for careers as investigative journalists.

The project will also help bridge the digital divide by providing students from Clark Atlanta and Morehouse (as well as Spelman College) a chance to learn high-level data and multimedia reporting techniques their own schools cannot offer. This will lay the foundation for improved reporting on their home communities.

The project will yield wider benefits as well. The Georgia community will gain access to important investigative stories that will flow from the collaboration. And by training young investigative reporters, the project will help ensure that citizens everywhere have access to the information they need to fully participate in the democratic process.

If this project works, how might the media organization and academic institution change its practices?

For the AJC and WSB, this project will help diversify their investigative teams and improve the quality and quantity of accountability journalism, thereby better serving the community and improving the lives of their audiences. The project will also provide an expanded talent pool from which to hire. For the academic institutions, this project offers a new model for journalism education.

It will facilitate greater collaboration with media organizations as well as other schools. It will also expand learning opportunities for students, increase access to resources and expertise, enhance the sharing of knowledge, and promote better understanding of diverse cultures.

The Georgia Collaborative team provided an update on its project in a July 2015 report. The following are excerpts from that report.

Update: What is the most important impact of your experiment?

We feel we have pointed the way toward a new model for the affordable production of high-quality investigative reporting. The project has reaffirmed our belief that student-professional collaborations can and should be part of the solution going forward. We hope that this can be a template that, under the right circumstances, others can follow. We also feel we have helped establish a path for increasing much needed diversity in investigative newsrooms. We are pleased that we have been able to create a diverse pipeline of young, well-trained investigative reporters who can help shape the future of public interest, watchdog journalism.

At a more immediate level, we have invested our first contingent of News Lab students with valuable investigative skills and provided them unique professional-level experience that, we believe, will make them highly attractive on the job market. We have also delivered a series of high-caliber investigative stories that have that provided the citizens of Georgia with the information they need to make informed decisions about matters of significant public interest. Our first story out of the box prompted a state Ethics Commission investigation into missing campaign funds.

Update: What additional collaborations/partnerships have resulted from your project?

In addition to recruiting though our partner universities, this past year, we worked with faculty at Emory and Mercer universities to recruit News Lab students. They were excellent additions to our team. Starting this coming year, we will have students from Spelman College participating in the News Lab. Spelman students come to us via the Morehouse journalism program. We are also adding a graduate student contingent to the News Lab starting this fall.

Looking forward, we are considering adding new local university partners to the News Lab team. In addition, we are exploring the possibility of opening the News Lab to students from other HBCUs in the Southeast. We are also hoping to secure funding to add concentrations in data journalism and investigative broadcast production to the core News Lab curriculum.

A few project links:

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Longtime Fulton Co. official corrects campaign filings after Channel 2 investigation