Anatomy of an article

In anticipation of a talk/Q&A session/something I’ll be participating in on March 3, I’m going to break down how I approached an article, just in case this is helpful for someone else.

The article in question is my piece on the Rutgers Business School Career Fair, where students were turned away for wearing blue suits or other clothing items which did not fit the school’s dress code.

This actually began with a post on reddit by a student who was turned away. If I’m being honest, I thought it was just a post making fun of business students wearing blue suits – as did the initial comments on the post itself. But I took another look (encouraged by a message from an anonymous redditor) and discovered that students were actually complaining about being turned away from the event due to their suits.

I reached out to several of the commenters, as well as to members of the RBS administration, and began compiling information about what exactly happened. By the weekend, I had 4 separate accounts which corroborated each other and indicated that a dress code which has not been used before and which several students were unaware of was enforced stringently. I also received a response from the RBS administration, which continued to support the evidence I had gathered.

I also looked at the various dress codes which have been used over the years to try and understand what changed. In previous years, blue suits were allowed, but this year, a new dress code was implemented.

To see how aware RBS students were of the new code, I asked them to forward me every email concerning the fair they had. While I was informed that every RBS student had been emailed a link to a webpage which the dress code was linked to, I was only able to confirm that honors students received it. That does not mean other students did not receive it – only that none were able to send me an email about it.

Within a few days, I had all the information I needed to write an article, but I hadn’t been able to speak to the person who allegedly enforced the dress code at the fair. Ultimately, I was able to confirm his involvement, though I never did get an interview with him.

This cleared me to write the article, which was later picked up by news outlets around the state and even by The Daily Mail in the UK.

Edit: On March 20 this article won first place in the New Jersey Press Foundation’s College Journalism Awards for Enterprise/Investigative Reporting.

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