Scripps National Investigative Team tackles its first major series

Trail of Betrayal

In an office in Washington D.C. a newly created team of journalists huddled together to review 30,000 files released by the Boy Scouts of America.  What they found became the “Trail of Betrayal”, their first investigation to be distributed to all Scripps markets; across all platforms all at the same time; print, television and digital.

This is the first joint project with the newly established Scripps national broadcast team and print journalists from the Scripps Howard News Service. Last April, The E.W. Scripps Company established the new national TV investigative team, based out of Washington, D.C.

“It’s a reflection of the company’s commitment to investigative journalism,” said Lawan Hamilton, executive producer for the Scripps National Investigative Team.  “The company’s vision is to provide quality content across all platforms. We have that as a part of our plan for all future investigations.”

badgeIn 2009, the Scripps Washington bureau began the process of delivering enterprise investigations to television stations in addition to newspapers. In the last year, the bureau added more journalists to that multi-media team.

“The bureau has done enterprise investigations and will continue to do so.  We hope to enhance those efforts.” said Hamilton. “This is the first time an investigation of this scope was released with such a coordinated effort across all platforms simultaneously.” 

Ten journalists, at the D.C., office worked on the “Trail of Betrayal” investigation. Creating the multi-media presentation was a learning process for all involved.  Dozens of people across the company played a significant role in producing the stories.

“There was no blueprint in place,” said Hamilton. “It hadn’t been done before.  All the coordination between all the business units and hubs was pretty massive.  We really tried to just figure out the best solutions.  Going forward we will have some steps to follow in how to execute stories, on this level, across all platforms.”

Scripps National Investigative Team

  • Lawan Hamilton, executive producer
  • Carol Guensburg, national editor
  • Jim Osman, national investigative correspondent
  • Lee Bowman, national correspondent
  • Danielle Alberti, digital producer
  • Kristin Volk, multimedia journalist
  • Tom Hargrove, national correspondent
  • Jenni Bergal, national correspondent
  • Chris Cantergiani, national investigative producer
  • Issac Wolf, national correspondent
  • Peter Copeland, bureau chief

Covering the Boy Scouts story was a coordinated effort.  The team was divided into groups to cover each part of the three-part series. They identified an overall premise for the series and a premise for each individual story.  Each story had a broadcast journalist, producer and a print journalist.  All of the groups met frequently to make sure the stories were a coordinated effort and to ensure all story elements were tailored for presentation on all platforms.

Investigative correspondent, Jim Osman presented all three television stories with unique storytelling.  Chris Cantergiani and Kristin Volk worked as producers and helped gather TV elements and interviews from all across the country.  

Each story was accompanied by a print version tailored for newspaper and online presentation by seasoned print journalists Lee Bowman, Isaac Wolf and Jenni BergalTom Hargrove provided data analysis and additional sidebar articles.  Carol Guensburg worked as national editor and coordinated all the elements for all Scripps newspapers.

Hamilton spearheaded the digital efforts along with help from Danielle Alberti, digital producer. 

“We had a dozen or more people on the Scripps Digital team working on the project, in some cases pulling overnighters to beat the deadline,” said Chip Mahaney, director of digital content for Scripps.  “It was the most complex series of stories we've ever attempted as a group, but it was very rewarding the see the work come to life on our digital platforms.”

They successfully released the “Trail of Betrayal” investigation to 13 Scripps television stations, 13 Scripps newspapers and 26 Scripps websites even with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on Washington, D.C.

“We will continue to follow the story,” said Hamilton. “There was a recent release of additional documents from the Boy Scouts of America in Oregon and the team is expecting another release from another state.”

“This high-level, national investigation is the reason we assembled this team,” said Brian Lawlor, senior vice president of television for Scripps. “This comprehensive, three-part series is a great example of what they are capable of doing.  We expect to see more of this great quality journalism from this national investigative focus in the future.”

This investigation was something new for Scripps newspapers as well.

“This multiplatform investigative report was impressive,” said Tim Stautberg, senior vice president of newspapers for Scripps.  “From the three-part series to the extended video interviews and digital elements, the Scripps National Investigative Team delivered a thoughtful, thorough investigation for all of Scripps.  Well done.” 

They are planning for more national investigations in the coming year as they get settled in their new work space. 

“We are getting things ramped up and getting things in gear,” said Hamilton. “We look forward to future investigations with national reach and scope.”