Six@Six lecture gives insight on investigative reporting

Andrea Carter, Reporter

National investigative editor for The Associated Press Richard Pienciak spoke about investigative reporting November 6 at the second lecture of the Six@Six series.

Pienciak presented his experiences working on investigative stories in his lecture “Beyond the Breaking News.”

Pienciak began his lecture with why it is valuable to have investigative reporting. He explains that AP strives to uncover things that are constantly affecting us locally, nationally and internationally.

“[Investigative reporting] are stories that cause interest,” said Pienciak. “There are things that they don’t want us to know and they will often go to great lengths to prevent us from learning these things.”

After briefing the audience on what Pienciak considers to be the definition of investigative reporting, he promptly continues with where stories come from. According to Pienciak this includes beat reporting, leaks, established/cultivated sources and expertise.

Throughout the lecture Pienciak used examples of stories that he worked on to demonstrate the importance of investigative reporting. One project covering the abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico after the infamous BP oil spill showed audiences the “different ways to tell a story.”

“We do all the investigating, we get the data and then we scrape it together without anyone seeing the dirty work, just the finished product.” He continued, “This is what is going on in a lot of investigative journalism. We are trying to make a technical story more accessible and understandable and the easiest way to do that is through multiple means of storytelling.”

Earlier in the day Pienciak also hosted Democracy Square LIVE! in the Student Union. While there he talked about the future of journalism and the public opinion of the profession.

Pienciak explained how longer standing publications like The Associated Press has had a hard time competing with purely entertainment content that websites like BuzzFeed produces.

“I am always fascinated by how many views our stories get,” explained Pienciak. “I hate to say it, but something with the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus in it [views] spikes up there. My reporters may have worked seven days a week for three months on a project and then they think it is really important and it is a public service but then they are zapped out by celebrity news.”

He continued to discuss such issues with journalism including credibility, the perceived biases in media and competition.

Pienciak, who attended college at Rider University in New Jersey, has had a lustrous career. He started at an entry-level position within the AP’s National Reporting Team where he worked his way up to head his own national team overseeing domestic regional investigative units. Pienciak is also the author of three nonfiction books.

Both Democracy Square LIVE! and the Six@Six lecture series are sponsored by The Scripps Howard Center for Civil Engagement.