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 60 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.
Our students have written more than 1,000 stories over four 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. Students say 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 most of the work through our Field Experience course, MC 4151, and distribute our stories through the LSU Manship School News Service. Christopher Drew, a former New York Times investigative reporter, teaches the course and runs the Statehouse Bureau. You can reach him at 225-578-3984 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our office on media row in the basement of the Capitol.
The experiential programs were created by former professor James E. “Jay” Shelledy with enthusiastic support from then-Dean Jerry Ceppos, who emphasized the school’s position at the intersection of media and public affairs. Shelledy won a journalism educator-of-the-year award before retiring in mid-2017. He started the LSU Cold Case Project in 2010 to help a weekly newspaper editor, Stanley Nelson, investigate the Klan murders. Shelledy created the Statehouse Project with the late Dr. Martin Johnson, who later succeeded Ceppos as 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, and Dr. Jenée Slocum, the director of the school’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, also teach that course.