HWDI: Housing Benefits for Administrators

Hello all. Hope everyone is well. My apologies. I haven’t posted here in awhile. Lucky for me, it’s fall break at Webster University. I’m hopped up on gas station coffee and ready to write.

Let’s talk about where and how your university administrators live. Some colleges pull out all of the stops for their top employees: free housing, maid service and security guards. It’s doubtful your university wants this information on the front page of the campus newspaper, so you can’t expect much help the PR office. But a simple check of your university’s 990 Form can tell you about these benefits and which administrators are receiving them.

Be careful, though, because the information will not be current. At Webster, 2011 pay data was only released last May, per government filing. So how did we cover a breaking story about our provost moving into a university house? First, non-Gorloks, follow me into the time machine.

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Okay, maybe not that far back.

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Public Records: Form 990s

A fundraiser that bombed. A steady climb in legal fees each year. A significant increase in pay for an administrator. If you’re a student journalist at a private university or college, these are all possible stories that could be uncovered with a Form 990.

The document, filed annually with the IRS, allows the government and the public to evaluate the operations of non-profits across the country. The government uses the form to determine if a non-profit is fulfilling its mission and still deserves its tax-exempt status.

As news editor, the story pitch process with staff reporters can be like pulling teeth. S0 instead of clearly stealing ideas from the university blog, I urge reporters to take a look at the 990. If you’re creative and read it carefully, you can have great story ideas at every pitch session for the rest of the semester.
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Public Records: 10 Story Ideas from the 990 Form

1. Independent Contractors. How much did your university pay its top five contractors? Do any have Board of Trustee or administrative connections? How many firms received over $100,000 in payment, compared to other colleges?

2. Lobbying. How much does your school pay in lobbying fees? Who are its lobbyists? And what is your university lobbying for? (Yes, your university lobbies.)

3. Administrative pay. What everyone whats to know. How does faculty pay increases compare to the head-honchos. How does it compare to others? Are they getting other perks, like a house, a loan or membership fees?

4. Endowment Funds. Increase? Decrease? How much in scholarships awarded? How much went to administrators?

5. Fundraiser activities and events. How successful were the fundraisers? How much did they bring in? How does the operation work?
Continue reading Public Records: 10 Story Ideas from the 990 Form

Multimedia Tool: STORIFY

Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 6.43.48 PMTWEETS – Storify  – Want to compile tweets and Facebook statuses from several disgruntled students? Perhaps you would like to list a series of live-tweets from an event? Use a Storify account to compile these updates and embed them into your story.

See: http://websterjournal.com/2011/11/02/coming-back-from-environmental-conference-wses-has-some-new-ideas-in-store-for-webster/

See: http://websterjournal.com/2012/09/04/breaking-news-city-council-votes-yes-on-ordinance-8753/

See: Friends, followers say farewall to Patrick Powers

FEEDLY, THE BEAST: The news you consume is what you report

With the demise of the Google Reader, the RSS Reader Feedly (free) has become a clear favorite among news fanatics and journalist alike. In the wake of Google’s announcement that it would shutter the Google Reader, Feedly reported 3 million users had created accounts for its service, I being one of them. Since then, I’ve become a Feedly-addict and check it constantly for updates and story ideas.

My Feedly Home Screen
My Feedly Home Screen

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Hello, Internet. Let me tell you what we’re doing here.

First posts are always awkward, so I’ll be quick with this one. This blog is about investigative journalism, public records and multimedia and reporting tools for college journalists. Many of the posts will be about at the work my colleagues and I  are doing at Webster University in St. Louis. However, if I come across something really exciting, I’ll pass it on to you. Thank you for visiting my blog and talk to you soon.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter @danbauman77.

A blog about public records, data journalism and other stuff