In case you’re wondering, our website’s URL and our Twitter and Facebook names all include “XGR” because that is a wire-service term that flags stories involving legislatures.
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 90 news outlets around the state. In the fall, we do in-depth stories about racial and criminal justice for state and national news sites. Students in the LSU Cold Case Project dig into unsolved Ku Klux Klan murders, while students in our In-Depth Reporting classes publish stories on a variety of other issues.
Our Statehouse students have written more than 1,300 stories over seven 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. Pew Research featured our Statehouse Bureau in an April 2022 report on how nonprofit newsrooms are stepping up to provide more coverage of state governments, and editors at professional news sites appreciate the free coverage we provide.
We do much 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 email@example.com 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 our late 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 2009 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, an associate professor who directed the school’s Public Policy Research Lab from 2016-2022; Dr. Jenée Slocum, the director of the school’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs; and Len Apcar, a former editor at The New York Times who now holds the Wendell Gray Switzer Jr. Endowed Chair in Media Literacy at the Manship School, also have taught that course.