From The Newsroom: The Daily’s In Focus desk explained


Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern

Investigative reporters at The Daily have the opportunity to dive deep into a topic of their choosing at The Daily’s In Focus desk.

Olivia Alexander, In Focus Editor

In this series, Daily staff members hope to provide more transparency about how we operate. If you would like to submit a question to be answered here, please send an email to Editor-in-chief Jacob Fulton at [email protected].

Investigative reporters at The Daily have the opportunity to dive deep into a topic of their choosing at The Daily’s In Focus desk. Stories range from 2500 to 4000 words in length and tend to have a significant impact on the Northwestern and Evanston communities. 

Here’s how the investigative process at The Daily works from start to finish. 

Creating an In Focus 

Every In Focus starts with a pitch. We ask reporters to include the story topic, angle, potential sources and multimedia elements. 

Writers of In Foci must be senior staffers (three quarters writing for The Daily or previous experience on our Editorial Board) and have some experience covering the subject matter they’re hoping to investigate. Reporters can also apply in teams of two or three. 

An In Focus sheds new light on a topic The Daily has not previously covered or adds new depth to our existing reporting. It takes a multifaceted look at an issue’s impact on many stakeholders in the Evanston or Northwestern communities and brings in historical and national context to give readers a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Creating an In Focus often requires the reporter to file a Freedom of Information Act Request, ask the University for an official comment or scour through public meeting agendas and documents. The In Focus editors help reporters with these tasks and identify potential people reporters might want to speak with for their stories. 

In Focus reporters work anywhere from several weeks to several months on their investigations. Reporters typically interview seven to 12 stakeholders with a range of backgrounds and identities. 

The In Focus editing process

The In Focus editors make three rounds of edits on each story. We often suggest reporters restructure paragraphs, move sections around and consider which details are relevant to the reader. 

We then pass the article to The Daily’s Copy desk. The Copy desk fact-checks all Daily articles through the use of the cadit quaestio, explained in this edition of From the Newsroom. In Focus reporters place a CQ after all facts in their story to prove the content is factual. Many of these CQs refer to official documents or interview recordings. 

Over a period of 48 Daily work hours, two copy editors comb through the In Focus draft and verifying all of them. The reporter makes corrections based on copy editors’ suggestions. 

Next, the story goes to the managing editors and the editor in chief during a process called line editing. Both In Focus editors, two managing editors, the editor in chief and the In Focus reporter edit the story together line-by-line for around five or six hours divided between two or three days. 

During line edits, we read the In Focus aloud and talk through changes together. After this phase, the In Focus is ready for publication. 

Publishing an In Focus

Once we have a nearly complete draft of the In Focus, we bring in our Illustrations and Design desks to help bring the story to life. The Illustrations editor coordinates the creation of visuals to accompany the story in print and web, while the Design editors prepare the story to be published in the print paper. 

An In Focus can also take the form of a podcast, video or multi-part series. Many In Foci include short videos or interactive elements to supplement the investigation. 

We take pride in the investigations we produce at The Daily. An In Focus is an enormous undertaking, and we are motivated by their impact on our campus and city communities. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oliviagalex

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