The Statehouse Bureau is at the heart of the experiential journalism program at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. In the spring, our students cover the Louisiana Legislature for more than 40 news outlets around the state. In the fall, we do in-depth stories about racial and criminal justice for state and national news sites. Our students dig into unsolved Ku Klux Klan murders and use data to examine contemporary issues. We also are working on a major criminal justice project with students from the University of Maryland and Princeton University.
By the summer of 2018, our students will have written more than 1,000 stories over three years of legislative sessions. Students also have prepared audio reports for a National Public Radio station and video stories for broadcast sites. Our team includes both undergraduates majoring in journalism or political communication and graduate students. The students say that the program provides a rare chance to build their skills in a professional setting and see how politics really works.
Only a few top journalism schools–like Maryland, Missouri, Northwestern, Arizona State and Texas–offer similar programs, which help fill the gaps in coverage left by staff cuts at news organizations. We do much of the work through our Field Experience course, MC 4151, and distribute our stories through the Manship School News Service. Christopher Drew, a former New York Times investigative reporter, teaches the course and directs the news service. You can reach him at 225-578-3984 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
The experiential programs were created by former professor James E. “Jay” Shelledy with enthusiastic support from then-Dean Jerry Ceppos, who emphasizes the school’s position at the intersection of media and public affairs. Shelledy won a journalism educator-of-the-year award for this work before retiring in 2017. He started the LSU Cold Case Project in 2010 to help a newspaper editor, Stanley Nelson, investigate the Klan murders. Shelledy created the Statehouse Project with Dr. Martin Johnson, now the Manship School’s dean. Shelledy opened the bureau in January 2016 after the first group of students took a prerequisite course in public affairs reporting created by Dr. Johnson. Dr. Michael Henderson, the director of the school’s Public Policy Research Lab, now teaches that course.
In case you’re wondering, the Statehouse Bureau’s website, Twitter and Facebook names all include “XGR” because that is an old wire-service term that flags stories involving legislatures.