What are new ways to pursue visual arts practices with the standards of investigative reporting? How can creative approaches to art and design embolden and help activate journalism and fact-based storytelling? And how can a media organization work with an art and design school to pursue innovative and compelling documentary art?

These are questions that The Center for Investigative Reporting and the California College of the Arts will explore together with a group of students this fall. In a new collaboration, CCA’s animation program will lead an interdisciplinary class with the guidance of CIR in which students will explore creative forms of visualization on the foundations of fact-based reporting. The course partnership is powered by ENGAGE at CCA, a program of the Center for Art and Public Life.

Under the direction of assistant professor Christoph Steger, the animated investigations course will invite CCA undergraduate students of all disciplines to participate in a semesterlong program that encompasses the breadth and possibility of documentary arts. Through lectures, engagement with mentors and visiting artists, students will encounter in-depth and interactive perspectives on new ways of information visualization.

The class will put a special focus on the nature of digital publishing and distribution, utilizing the students’ own familiarity with social media platforms and online communities to consider innovative new models for storytelling and engagement.

The course will culminate in self-directed projects under the mentorship of CIR staff, sourced through material from CIR reporting.

“Collaboration and invention drives CIR’s mission, and we are excited to connect with the CCA faculty and students to develop this first-of-its-kind course,” said Joaquin Alvarado, CIR’s chief executive officer. “We hope this is the beginning of a new engine to advance the creative economy and journalism.”

“It’s an exciting time for innovative documentaries, and I’m thrilled about the collaboration between CCA and CIR,” Steger said. “It will be great to see how young artists can bring factual stories to life while taking inspiration from the creativity involved in investigative reporting.”

This course is the latest product in an ongoing partnership between CIR and CCA. In November, CIR and the Center for Art and Public Life co-hosted an installment of TechRaking at the school’s San Francisco campus. The weekendlong design sprint, aimed at “redesigning the newsstand,” included students in both undergraduate and design MBA programs. The winning student team is currently working with CIR staff to prototype their concept.

Students in CCA’s design MBA program also are evaluating new business models for CIR, and a team of three students will develop and present ideas for CIR at the end of the semester.

Stay tuned in the coming months for more developments in CIR and CCA’s experiments to blend art, design, journalism and community engagement.

Cole Goins is the director of community engagement for Reveal, where he cultivates partnerships that blend in-depth journalism and creative public engagement. He has built and supported distribution networks, spearheaded arts-based initiatives such as the Off/Page Project, led social media and audience strategy, and facilitated statewide media collaborations. He was a senior fellow in the 2015 USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowships, mentoring five journalists on approaches to community engagement. Previously, Goins was the engagement editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he led audience development initiatives and multimedia features for award-winning investigative projects. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he worked as music director for WXYC, the student-run radio station. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.