Wednesday April 21 class

This just in: Tribune finds another victim of Deadbeat Illinois.

Today, we will:

  • Assess reporting progress
  • Edit and post finished content including your Web reporting rewrites, field interviews and images
  • Plan for video. Interviews and other options
  • Define our categories
  • Establish assignments due April 26.

Reminder: Do not post to the project Web site until content has been reviewed by class and edited.

Reporting plan so far

Merritt:Public safety impact

Illinois DOC representative interview for Tuesday

Mary Davis home contact: Rod Cleaire, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday

Galesburg Police Chief Christiansen. 3 p.m. Weds.

Andrew: Human services impact; Sandburg college impact

Jim Rich, Sandburg Dean of adult and development education

Knox Human Services Council list: Direct contact with service providers and clients.

PASS, Monmouth Program.

Ryan: Abingdon schools; tax liens

Abingdon impact: $112,937 in transportation, special ed.

Contact music and language teachers and students. ID students sharing instruments.

Courthouse tax liens: Identify and contact individuals who owe Illinois money.

Amanda: Knoxville schools:, Carver Center

Knoxville schools: Five retiring: What subjects involved? How covered? Impact on students?

Carver Center: Contact staff and clients and identify impact of payment delays.

Sarah: Galesburg schools; city hospitals

Galesburg asst super finance and operations: Guy Cahill: assuming state won’t make good on all debts.

School identifies how deep they will cut; draws a line. Contact employees on either side of that line.

Emphasis on job retention.

Are private pre-schools benefiting from Illinois’ delayed payments?


Monday, April 19 class

Project updates

What have you learned from your reporting?

New story ideas

This week’s story drafts

Site development

Video:New Left Media:

Links and briefs: Rewrite these to focus on project angle, obtain new info. Include link. Find at least two others like it and do the same.

Comptroller’s letter of apology to vendors

Comptroller’s outlook: Study this and present three story ideas to the class Wednesday.

DuPage County school board president suggests reprisals

“I propose we stop sending $500,000 a month to a deadbeat entity that owes us $13 million.”

Suburban Chicago public transit eyes June deadline

Tiny Hardin county considers laying off 60 percent of county staff

Pre-schools and child abuse agency await overdue payments

Rockford senior program owed hundreds of thousands

NPR interview with Gov. Pat Quinn

Images: For head and pages.

Cross marketing plan: Queries up on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube videos.

Reporting time!

Terrific work Wednesday night. Now the fun part begins!

Andrew Merritt: Please review, then follow up directly with me with questions.

Our goal is first story drafts due in class Monday. Page built and live on Wednesday, April 21.


Now comes your shoe-leather reporting. (Rubber soles or sandals are OK, too.)

Initially, we divided up coverage areas among affected agencies: Schools, law enforcement, medical, etc.

Our site’s mission is to capture the personal impacts of Illinois’ decision to delay due payments. You’ll need to understand the big picture at each agency. But the mission of this site is to bring real people’s faces, stories, quotes, hopes, aspirations, fears, etc., into this.

Attached is a spreadsheet of the Senate Democrats PDF of late school district bills. Search for your school district to quantify specific cuts, allowing you to form specific questions.

For all interviews

  • Obtain contact info for individuals – students, faculty and staff — directly affected by the cuts you learn about.
  • Share your contact information: Your phoner and e-mail and our class Website address:
  • Explain this is a Knox journalism project focusing on Illinois’ delayed payments. Information will be shared through this Web site beginning April 21.
  • Don’t just interview; establish a relationship so these sources keep you posted on continuing impacts.
  • Have people at each agency quantify cuts due primarily to Illinois’ delayed payments.
  • Ask them: What data do you have to help me understand affect?
  • Interview and obtain images of as many individuals as possible.
Due Monday:
1. Drafts of first people interview story w/ photos. 200 to 500 words.
2. List of contacts and phoners for subsequent stories.
3. List of further story ideas you develop from reporting.
3. Your bio and mug to Andrew Polk for building the About page.

Initial beat coverage areas


Carver Center, provides service to low income residents.

Knoxville school district


Galesburg school district

Galesburg hospitals: Cottage and St. Mary


Abindgon school district

Spreadsheet on education cuts: Crunch attached spreadsheets to see which funds statewide are being withheld.

Tax liens


Law enforcement: Prison, state troopers, Mary Davis Home

Compile and post links to related stories

Edit and post bios and mugs to ABOUT page.


Law enforcement: Prison, state troopers, Mary Davis home

Compile pertinent links

Appeal for readers to participate

Remaining regional school districts




April 14 class


  1. Review your story ideas and assign stories, photos and videos.
  2. Establish deadlines.
  3. Assign team leadership for:
  • Site design
  • External data collection
  • Social networking development

Illinois debt data

Sarah suggested the Illinois Education Association site.

Andrew suggested Campaign for Illinois Future and the state budget office.

A list of Illinois local newspaper stories about school district cuts, Progress Illinois, April 6.

Kewanee Hospital closes birth center; Illinois low and slow payments are part of the reason. Stark County News, April 14.

Illinois poster child of debt crisis, Business Week, April 13.

Cash-strapped Illinois owes companies $4.5 billion, Chicago Tribune, April 12.

List of debts to Illinois school districts, Illinois Senate Democrat Caucus, March 15, 2010. This is organized by Senate district. Check for Senate District 37, which totals $7.8 million owed districts in Knox County.

Illinois debt counter, a Web widget that continually calculates risingt interest costs.

Deadbeat Illinois

Our class reporting project will identify individuals left hanging by the State of Illinois’ decision to defer its debts to its residents, governments, schools, hospitals and vendors.

You will find real people stuck in this lurch, and investigate the impact on their lives.

You will aggregate the best reporting on this issue.

You will investigate what happens to Illinoisans who are just as late with their payments to the state.

Your reporting will fuel the discussion anticipated when the General Assembly reconvenes May 1.

Assignment for Wednesday, April 14

Research: Everyone. Get smart on Illinois bill payment dilemma.

Story suggestions: Everyone. Present two specific, actionable, shoe-leather reporting ideas. Identify potential sources by name and title.

Bios: Everyone. Up to 100 words, w/ headshot and e-mail address..

Interaction: Everyone. Identify three existing journalism sites that provide compatible information and/or could be helpful with a Web partnership.

Process: Every project has roles. In this, all will be reporters and photographers. . Some will be designers. Some will be editors. Some will be marketers. What are your preferences?

Project name: Everyone. Two project title nominations.

Among our first brainstorms…




Where’s the beef?

Where’s my cash?

Where’s the money

I’m sorry, you wanted money?

IO ME: Illinois owes me

Deadbeat Illinois

Pay us so we can horde it

Pay up, Illinois!

Cough it up ydb

State of #&!@*!!

Land of Lincoln bankruptcy

Corn & corruption

Past due

When will I get paid?


Wednesday, April 7 class

Project pitches: What ideas can engage an audience with innovative journalism?

Discussion: Journalism 2.0 Introduction and Chapter 1

Activity: Explore WordPress page-building

Assignment for Monday, April 12:

This class will use WordPress, one of many hosting sites.

The importance of categories. Tips tutorial.

Build your own WordPress Web site that:

Includes posted images, text, RSS feed, post, pages. Bonus for embedding video.

Read Journalism 2.0 Chapters 2 and 3

Monday, April 5 class

Citizen journalism site evaluations. Be prepared to present to the class the four sites you found and how well they conform with the APME online credibility guidelines

Discuss previous Knox IJ sites 33 months and Downtown Alive

Wednesday Assignments:

Read and be prepared to discuss J 2.0: Introduction and Chapter 1

Submit two completely different project ideas and be prepared to pitch them to the class. Post it as a comment by noon, Wednesday.

Each proposal will be no more than two pages and will address these specific parameters.

  • Unearths new information: Detail the reporting activities that will generate new content on this site. What will students report on?
  • Targets a specific audience: Define intended audiences, primary and secondary.
  • Encourages participation from that audience. What participatory elements will you include?
  • Storytells with text, images, audio and video
  • Gets fed every day: Suggest a reporting, editing and updating process that involves all class members.
  • Builds alliances with existing sites: Include components that draw information from pertinent sites.
  • Is doable by five students over 10 weeks
  • Includes worthwhile minimum expectations
  • Holds the promise of exceeding those expectations
  • Can be adapted to fit reader interaction