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The Vermont Cynic investigates

April 30, 2015

Writers and editors at The Vermont Cynic have long talked about doing “investigative journalism,” quote marks and all. Usually they don’t carry it out.

Undertaking journalism of this kind is a potentially troublesome adventure for college students, most of whom are still in the process of learning how to carry out any kind of reporting, much less the advanced kind.

This semester, however, the Cynic is reaching for the next level.

From today's Vermont Cynic

From today’s Vermont Cynic

The paper yesterday published a special edition on campus and at with just one subject: questionable practices at the university’s food-service provider, Sodexo.

The story is the latest from the Cynic’s new enterprise section, named after the journalistic term for stories that don’t just present themselves to a reporter—like a government meeting or a press release—but must be unearthed by an enterprising reporter.

These investigations are impressive, drawing notice from around the country.Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 5.34.50 PM

Earlier stories focused on a controversy about campaign ethics in a city election and a little-noticed state law that contributes to making the University of Vermont too expensive for scores of students.

But this week’s story package goes further, investigating claims of worker mistreatment and dirty university kitchens with cross-contaminated food. This kind of writing is urgent, important and revealing.

This new enterprise section—the brainchild of enterprise editor Jacob Holzman—poses a risk for the Cynic. Regular news is tough enough to cover, filled with potential legal pitfalls.

“Many people believe investigative journalism is dying out, especially for people our age,” says the Cynic’s editor-in-chief, Cory Dawson. “Grappling with big, important stories stretches reporters.

“It’s the best way to learn, because we often fail and keep going despite failure.”

News impacts the public in ways that nothing else can: both positively, when it’s done well, and negatively, when it’s not.

Journalists are rightly expected to get everything right all the time: a tall order. An impossibility, really.

But through a careful reporting and editing process, the folks in this newsroom are aiming to get it right.

In every investigation. This time. Next time. Every time.



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