February 3- March 1, 2020


Instructors: Lise Olsen, Alejandra Xanic, Lee Zurik, and Denise Malan

With support from:




Investigative reporting requires constant innovation and, increasingly, collaborations. This course will provide both beginner journalists and advanced investigators with great new tools to use. A team of four journalists with decades of experience in investigating everything from political corruption to environmental hazards to human rights attoricites will show off the latest tools for organizing collaborations, for digging deeper with digital tools, for tapping crowdsourcing to investigate and for tackling seemingly impossible stories.

Registering in the platform is easy. Please follow these steps:

  • 1. Create an account in the Journalism Courses system. Even if you’ve taken a course with us before, you may need to create a new account. Check to see if your previous username and password work before creating a new account.
  • 2. Wait for a confirmation in your email indicating that your account has been created. If you do not receive this, please check your spam folder.
  • 3. Log into the platform, scroll down until you see the course listings, and click on the “Investigative Reporting in the Digital Age” course.
  • 4. A button will appear. Click “Enroll” to enroll yourself in the course. You will be able to access the course from the “My Courses” menu at the top of the page.
  • 5. You will receive an email confirming your enrollment.

Please add the email addresses journalismcourses@austin.utexas.edu and ryansagare@utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.

In this course, you will learn a range of skills from how to develop your first investigative story ideas to how to refine a complicated action plan for an investigation that might take years or require a multinational team.

Upon completion of this course, you will:

  • Know how to go from conceiving a story idea to creating a plan for pursuing your investigation
  • Learn new tools to dive deeper
  • Understand do’s and don’ts for news collaborations
  • Learn to better manage the various stages of a complex investigation, including confrontational interviews
  • Master new techniques and tools, such as search engines, secure platforms and new data visualization programs

Introduction Module: Course Introduction

In the introductory module, you will get an overview of the course structure and meet the instructors.


Module 1: Investigative Reporting - from your first idea to highly complex probes

Instructor: Lise Olsen, Investigative reporter & editor, The Texas Observer

In this module you will learn:

  • How and where can you start investigating. Lies, contradictions and other investigative opportunities
  • Great sources and best places to start digging
  • Case studies: how to organize complex investigations of individuals, from a serial killer to a corrupt congressman


Module 2: Transforming an idea into an investigative plan of action — solo or as part of a collaboration

Instructor: Alejandra Xanic, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and co-founder of Quinto Elemento Lab in Mexico City

In this module you will learn:

  • What are the steps in an investigation (and how can you survive it all?)
  • How to turn a rough idea into an investigative plan
  • Case studies: how independent reporters investigated the case of Mexico’s 2,000 hidden mass graves; inside the binational investigation of how U.S. giant Wal-mart violated Mexican laws


Module 3: Investigating on video — from mastering the confrontational interview to tapping your audience for help

Instructor: Lee Zurik, Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist at Fox TV in New Orleans

In this module you will learn:

  • Do’s and don’ts for conducting confrontational interviews
  • New opportunities for using social media and crowdsourcing to investigate corruption, to obtain information and investigate quickly (even in a mass disaster situation)


Module 4: The latest data journalism and dataviz tools to deepen your investigative work

Instructor: Denise Malan, senior training director for Investigative Reporters & Editors and data journalist

In this module you will learn:

  • The importance of data in investigations and how to find data to deepen your reporting
  • New options for securely sharing information with sources and collaboration partners
  • Software and skills you need for your data journalism toolkit, including free data visualization tools to make your investigation more interactive (and generate more tips from readers)


Lise Olsen is a senior reporter & editor at the Texas Observer magazine and previously worked as deputy investigations editor at The Houston Chronicle.  Lise has investigated many twisted Texas tales, including crooked judges, an unjust execution, massive environmental disasters, myriad cases of corporate and public corruption, and unsolved serial killings. Her reports over 20 years in three states have contributed to the prosecutions of a former congressman and a federal judge, inspired laws and reforms, helped solve cold cases, restored names to unidentified murder victims and freed dozens of wrongfully-held prisoners. Her work is featured in two documentaries, CNN's "The Wrong Man" (2015) about the innocence claims of executed offender Ruben Cantu and the six-part A & E series on the victims of a 1970s serial killer, "The Eleven,” (2017). She has three times been named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas APME. In 2019, she was part of the investigative team that broke the story of how hundreds of Southern Baptists with formal church roles—pastors, deacons, youth pastors—had engaged in sexual misconduct, leaving behind more than 700 victims. A former staff and board member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Lise speaks Spanish and French, has lived in Mexico and France and has taught workshops throughout the Americas. Her email is olsen@texasobserver.org and Twitter handle is @lisedigger.

Alejandra Xanic: Xanic, as she’s known to her colleagues, is an investigative reporter and more recently, editor and co-founder of Quinto Elemento Lab, a nonprofit organization in Mexico that teams-up with reporters in order to mentor, produce and disseminate their investigative projects (quintoelab.org). Xanic has worked on stories about AIDS and migration, the lives of the deaf, drug trafficking, corruption and impunity for media such as Siglo 21, Publico, Cambio and Expansión. Xanic worked with The New York Times reporter David Barstow in an investigation that revealed Wal-mart´s systematic use of bribes to fuel its growth in Mexico. She also collaborated with Ginger Thompson (ProPublica) in her investigation into the massacre in the town of Allende that followed a leak of information by the DEA. Xanic has developed an expertise in using Mexico’s Transparency laws and is an active trainer of fellow reporters around the country. She can be reached at alejandraxanic@gmail.com and her Twitter handle is @xanic.

Lee Zurik's hard-hitting investigations continue to effect change and garner respect. Lee’s work has been recognized with journalism’s top awards. In total, two Peabody Awards, three Columbia-duPont Silver Batons, 11 National Edward R. Murrow Awards, the IRE Medal, five IRE Certificates, and 12 Sigma Delta Chi Awards. Lee is currently the evening news anchor and chief investigative reporter at WVUE-TV in New Orleans. In addition, he also serves as director of investigations for Gray Television. In that role, Lee oversees Gray’s National Investigative Unit and its new OTT App – InvestigateTV. Lee is a proud member of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and was recently re- elected vice president of the organization’s board of directors. He can be reached at lee.zurik@gray.tv and her Twitter handle is @LeeZurik.

Denise Malan is senior training director at IRE. She was a newspaper journalist for more than a decade, covering government, education, politics, the environment and more. After several years at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in Texas, she joined IRE in 2013 in a joint position with the Institute for Nonprofit News, helping newsrooms around the country use data in their reporting. She became a training director in 2016 and earned a master’s degree in data science from the University of Missouri in 2019. She can be reached at denise@ire.org and her Twitter handle is @DeniseMalan.

This course is open to anyone interested in investigative reporting and data journalism basics, including experienced investigators who seek to deepen their skills on complex investigations, collaborations and data journalism. The instruction team includes four journalists with experience in cross-border and multimedia investigations for print, broadcast/TV and documentaries. Journalists, editors, photojournalists, data journalists and others interested in investigative reporting at all levels are encouraged to participate.

This course only requires you to have access to an Internet connection and a web browser.

First of all, note that this is an asynchronous course. That means there are no live events scheduled at specific times. You can log in to the course and complete activities at your own pace, at the times and days that are most convenient for you.

But there are still structures in place for the duration of the course. The material is organized into four weekly modules. Each module will be taught by one of the course instructors (Lise Olsen, Alejandra Xanic, Lee Zurik, and Denise Malan) and will cover a different topic through videos, multimedia presentations, readings and discussion forums. There will be a quiz each week to test the knowledge you've gained through the course materials. The weekly quizzes, and weekly participation in the discussion forums, are the basic requirements for earning a certificate of participation at the end of the course.

This course is very flexible, and if you fall behind, you have the entire length of the course to complete the materials. We do recommend you try to complete each of the following before the end of each week:

  • Video lectures
  • Readings and handouts/exercises
  • Participation in discussion forums
  • Quizzes covering concepts from video lectures and/or readings

A certificate of completion will be available for those who meet all of the course requirements. After confirmation of course requirements, the Knight Center will send a message with confirmation that you fulfilled the course requirements and qualify for the certificate. A certificate of completion is available for those who meet all of the course requirements, and pay online an administrative fee of $30 (thirty U.S. dollars), using a credit card. Once your payment has been confirmed you will receive an email with instruction on how to download the certificate. No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate. The certificate is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to attest to the participation in the online course.

To be eligible for a certificate of completion, you must:

  • Watch the weekly video classes and read the weekly readings
  • Complete weekly quizzes with a 70% minimum score. (You can retake the quizzes as many times as needed. Only the highest score will be recorded.)
  • Create OR reply to at least one discussion forum each week

At the end of the course, an online form will be made available for you to apply for a certificate. Once you have filled out the form and we have verified that you have met the course requirements, the Knight Center will send a message with instructions on how to make your payment. The verification process will take three to five business days.

Please add the email addresses ryansagare@utexas.edu and journalismcourses@austin.utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.




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