On Tuesday, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced that that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Schoofs will be leading the school’s investigative journalism program.
“I think the best thing about [Schoofs] is not only that he knows how to write and how to produce stories across platforms that are important today, but he’s used to working with an array of young journalists,” Gordon Stables, the director of journalism at Annenberg, said of the school’s newest hire. “For students, the chance to get to work with one who has tremendous experience in teaching younger journalists on how to do this work in a way based on industry standards is a wonderful opportunity.”
Before joining USC, Schoofs worked at BuzzFeed News, where he established and led its investigative team in 2013. He also served as an editor for ProPublica and was an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
“It’s a career of 30 years and understanding deeply, how to do investigative reporting so that you get the documents, the interviews and the facts that are necessary, then have it written or presented in a way that hits,” Schoofs said.
During his time at BuzzFeed News, Schoofs and his team of reporters covered an array of investigations. For example, reporter Katie Baker discovered sexual harassment complaints from over 180 people regarding the nationwide Massage Envy spa. Although the company initially made no efforts to address the issues, they eventually announced changes to instruct franchisees to handle sexual assault allegations after the investigation was released.
The team is also known for investigating the alleged wire transfers involving President Donald Trump and Russia, with offshore companies linked to his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. They eventually uncovered that the FBI was scrutinizing the Russian Foreign Ministry for having over 60 international money transfers.
“What BuzzFeed in particular has taught me is how to use the digital world to make stories explode,” Schoofs said. “BuzzFeed is probably the most sophisticated digital media company in the world. Seeing, watching and thinking about how people interact with great investigations that are only presented digitally is incredibly useful.”
Schoofs hopes all of his past experiences will inform his teaching and his philosophy for the investigative reporting program at Annenberg.
“[It’s important for students to focus on investigative journalism] because that’s ultimately the journalism that can make the most difference in the world,” Schoofs said. “You uncover wrongs that are so fiercely kept secret, that it requires a huge investment of time and resources to expose them. So that kind of journalism is essential, it’s the core of all journalism.”
Stables said Schoofs’ first responsibility with the University’s faculty will be to evaluate and develop different ways that the school can expand investigative reporting in its curriculum and extracurriculars.
“I hope that [students] learn and take from his passion to tell important stories in a thoughtful way,” Stables said. “I hope that they [the students] can share his passion and his energy to help guide their vision and their stories.You don’t always get to see someone at the peak of being a professional and of the influence they have to want to come and want to be apart of a university environment. We’re just really fortunate.”