The Life Cycle of an Investigative Story: Master Class with David Barstow

This Master Class was originally broadcast on:
August 01, 2014 Enroll Now
Details about an archived replay of the event will be announced soon. If you registered in the live event, you are already enrolled.

Course Overview

The Life Cycle of an Investigative Story: Master Class with David Barstow
Master Class
Time Estimate:
There will be two 90-minute sessions for online participants (with an hour lunch intermission).

About Master Classes

A Poynter Institute Master Class is a unique opportunity to learn from a prominent journalist or other media star in an intimate, exclusive online broadcast or in-person event.

From tracing back through a maze of documents, rules and laws to uncover Wal-Mart’s illegal activity in Mexico to putting the pieces of the military-industrial-media puzzle together and exposing corrupt and problematic connections and their consequences, the career of three-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter David Barstow has had immeasurable impact on journalism and on the world.

In this exclusive Poynter NewsU event, David will guide you through the life cycle of an investigative story, highlighting the lessons learned from his extraordinary successes and also from his lesser-known stories. He will take questions on the life cycle of a story, from idea to publication, and he will explain the way he writes narrative, character-rich pieces even on stories that seem like they wouldn’t lend themselves to narrative. He’ll explain what he calls the “natural narrative sequence” in order to carry the reader through a story to the end.

One of the little-discussed aspects of investigative reporting is the toll it can take on the reporter. David will share his thoughts about the psychology of the investigative reporter, and explain how to make sure your mindset allows you to have perspective, be objective, and take care of yourself.

About the Poynter Master Class

Taking your craft to the next level requires not only skills and focus but also courage and inspiration. The Poynter Master Class is a unique opportunity to get into the mindset of a professional who is widely regarded as one of the brightest minds in and best practitioners of the craft of journalism. Join us in-person at The Poynter Institute or online through Poynter NewsU for this conversation. The three-hour program will be broadcast live and available for replay. We will solicit questions from the audience in advance in order to provide a seamless, high-quality broadcast that will entertain and enlighten you.

Interviewing David Barstow will be Butch Ward, Poynter's senior faculty in leadership and management.

This event was originally broadcast on Aug. 1, 2014

What Will I Learn:

(Each session will be made up of curated questions, but will cover the following):

Session 1: The Life Cycle of a Story
* Organizing the pieces from tip to follow-up
* Natural narrative sequences
* From sources to characters: talking to real people in the course of huge investigations
* Choosing anecdotes while avoiding the “single story”
* Interview strategies for reluctant or intimidated sources

Session 2: The Investigative Storyteller
* How to put yourself in the best mindset to be successful as an investigative reporter
* How to deal with the impact and fallout of investigative reporting
* What to look for in an editor
* How to manage editors and get them to bet on your success

Who should take this course:

Reporters who want to take their careers to the next level, editors and managers who want to help their newsrooms reach the next level of investigations and impact.


David Barstow

David Barstow, a senior writer at The New York Times, is known for his relentless, precise reporting and his gifts as an investigative storyteller. Barstow has worked on The Times’ investigative unit since 2002. He won his latest Pulitzer Prize in 2013, with Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab, for stories that documented Wal-Mart’s corrupt practices in Mexico.


Butch Ward (Host)

Butch Ward is senior faculty and former managing director at The Poynter Institute, where he teaches leadership, editing, reporting and writing. During his 27-year career as a journalist at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore News-American, Butch held a variety of newsroom positions, including managing editor at both newspapers.

Before joining Poynter, he spent three years being covered by journalists as spokesperson for Independence Blue Cross, the largest health insurer in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Technical Requirements:

This master class live event contains audio. Please make sure you've got your headphones or speakers adjusted.

For the best experience, we suggest that:

  • PC users use Firefox or Chrome
  • Mac users use Chrome, Firefox or Safari
  • You set your monitor resolution to 1024 x 768 or higher
  • You use a wired connection instead of wireless

Please test your connection.

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