MURRAY - Four Murray State University journalism and mass communication students have been selected to participate in the first WKMS investigative reporting fellowship for the spring semester. 

The fellowship is a partnership between the Murray State department of journalism and mass communications and WKMS, the National Public Radio affiliate located on campus. 

Jared Bennett, an investigative reporter with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in Louisville, will guide the students through the investigative reporting process and help them produce stories that could air on WKMS and on the WKMS website. 

Students are Edie Greenberg, a senior journalism major from Louisville, Molly Dowell, a senior organizational communication major from Hardinsburg, Dustin Wilcox, a junior journalism major from Hopkinsville, and Kati Wyant, a sophomore journalism major from Murray.

Students will earn academic credit and gain professional experience while learning investigative techniques from Bennett, and then apply those skills to their work at WKMS. Students will learn skills such as finding stories in regulatory disclosures and filing open records requests to access governmental documents and data. 

“By the end of the fellowship, they will have experience reporting and producing thorough watchdog journalism that holds powerful people and institutions accountable,” Bennett said. 

Bennett plans to have students covering the pandemic, including health care and relief programs.

“We’ll be covering issues that matter most to people in western Kentucky,” he said. “We’ll be investigating the impacts of COVID-19 on the region’s health and economy and what public officials are doing to deal with the pandemic.”

Kate Howard, managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, said her newsroom is thrilled to see what the students will produce under Bennett’s tutelage. 

“Training young reporters on investigative skills in college ensures that they’re ready to deliver strong accountability work in their first full-time job,” Howard said. 

WKMS station manager Chad Lampe said WKMS is excited to offer students the chance to gain professional experience while learning from Bennett and other journalists that Bennett will invite to speak via a virtual platform. 

“Our mission is to serve as an essential provider of trusted news and to cover the concerns of the region,” Lampe said. “Additionally, we are rooted in the educational mission of Murray State, and this fellowship expands our offerings to Murray State students for professional journalism experience. We believe the content generated by these investigative fellows will be of significant importance to our region.”

Lampe also said students who have the fellowship on their resume will stand out to employers. 

“We hope this course will arm budding journalists with a keen understanding of the First Amendment, the public’s right to know and how nuance and thoughtfulness will aid their career in reporting on challenging and delicate topics,” he said. 

Dr. Allen White, chair of the department of journalism and mass communications, said he’s pleased the department can work with WKMS and hopes for more collaborative efforts. 

“This program is a terrific opportunity for our students who will be negotiating a dynamic and challenging news environment as they enter this profession,” he said. 

Departmental faculty members Stephanie Anderson, Chris Haynes, Kevin Qualls, White and Leigh Landini Wright, along with Lampe and WKMS news director Rachel Collins, helped plan this fellowship.

Students’ completed work will air on WKMS and be published on wkms.org.