August 1997

RRA on the web

By Brett Lieberman
Harrisburg Patriot-News

The Regional Reporters Association takes its first step into the Internet age with a web site devoted to regional reporting.
The site, which can be accessed at, was set to launch Monday, Aug. 11. Please try back in a few days, though, if you find the site isn't up yet.
RRA Online aims to offer members archived access to the Regional Reporter newsletter, updated information on coming events, useful web sites, links to online newspapers and a link to The Washington Times daybook. The site also offers a simple way to give board members feedback.
Among the features:

  • "About RRA" provides a brief history of RRA, explaining how reporters decided they could better cooperate than compete.
  • "RRA Guide" offers a sample of our printed guide to covering Washington. It offers newcomers the Top 10 list of things to do.
  • "Links" offers Internet sites that other regionals find useful. We hope it will become a one-stop resource as members suggest adding new links.
    Like the Internet itself, this web site will change day-to-day and month-to-month as we add more and as we try to make it even easier to access. Possible additions include listings of RRA members searchable by name, organization and beat, as well as a forum for members to post queries, seek advice and share ideas.

    How to beat the summer doldrums

    By Ellyn Ferguson
    Gannett News Service

    The dull days of August are here, but your editors still expect a steady stream of stories. Here are a few ideas for the lean days until September arrives with the pitter-patter of returning lawmakers:

  • Play detective on the recently passed $94 billion tax package to find winners and losers from your area. You also might want to detail how the groups or individuals lost out in the last hours of horse-trading when they saw a pet provision in an earlier version disappear in the final agreement.
  • Curl up with the July 31 campaign finance reports if you have a race for an open seat in 1998 or a shaky incumbent who could have trouble raising money. Take a look at where the money came from as well as how it was spent. Also check with the Center for Responsive Politics's web site at or with an analyst at the center itself to see if there is a profile on past contributors to your lawmakers. The center breaks contributors down by industries and interests, helping you put the latest report into context.
  • Enjoy yourself and visit one of the historic battlefields, towns or monuments in the area for a travel piece. Who knows, there may be some regional link, such as a local regiment that fought at Gettysburg.
  • Delve into foster care, an area where Congress seems determined to make changes. How many kids in your state are in foster care? Do they match the national demographics for kids in foster care? What do your local and state officials or foster parents believe should be done? Does that square with some proposals being floated on the Hill?
  • Check the calendar. Is there an anniversary of regional or national significance coming up?
  • Track down that former lawmaker, staffer or lobbyist from your coverage area and do a what-ever-happened-to-so-and-so story for the readers back home.
  • Revisit a federal issue or law that once drew a lot of attention in your area. Has the law done what supporters said it would?


    RRA board members at their Aug. 4 meeting approved launching a web page at the address The page will feature information about RRA and upcoming events. (Detail above.) Members also discussed a survey to be mailed out this fall. (Details below.)
    Board members are considering a writing seminar with The Freedom Forum this winter aimed at turning turgid Washington speak into lively copy. The event would feature newspaper writing coaches and veteran Washington hands giving useful tips and, perhaps, critiquing some RRA members' copy.
    The newsmakers committee and regional directors continue to plan events with top officials. Board members plan to meet with the White House staff to explore holding a session with President Clinton.

    President's Report

    By Jerry Zremski

    Who are you?
    The Regional Reporters Association would like to know.
    Sometime in the early fall, you will receive a copy of our member survey. Please take a few minutes to fill it out and return it in the self-addressed, stamped envelope we will enclose. By doing so, you will give the RRA board members the guidance we need to make sure we are serving your needs.
    We're doing this survey for several reasons:

  • We want to get a clearer idea of the types of events that are most helpful to you. Knowing that will help us plan productive events.
  • We hope to get a clearer picture of our size and scope. We will ask print members to estimate their publication's circulation. We want to tell prospective newsmakers that RRA reporters have a readership of X million nationwide -- a factoid that should give us more clout in dealing with cabinet secretaries and key figures on the Hill.
  • Finally, if you agree, some of your answers from the survey will be compiled in a new RRA Member Directory. We will be asking you about the topics you write about and the newsmakers you cover. By printing this information in a member directory (with your permission, of course), we hope that we can all "network" just a little bit better. If you need advice on covering a topic that's new to you, the directory will help you find a colleague from another part of the country who can give you advice. And if C-SPAN or another news organization needs a regional reporter to discuss a key issue or event, the producer could simply open the guide and find the right person. A copy of the guide will be sent to all members, and will be posted on our Internet site.
    So when you get that survey in the mail, please don't mistake it for another useless press release. Look at it as a small time investment that should pay off for us all.

    Survey for regionals planned

    By Gerry Shields
    Scripps Howard News Service

    The Regional Reporters Association will be conducting a survey of its members to find out how the board can better serve the general membership.
    The survey also will be used to measure the group's experience, expertise and circulation strength.
    Regional reporters in Washington will be asked to comment on the kinds of events they would like the organization to plan, as well as identify the issues they cover most. The information will then be assembled in report form and shared among members.
    The questionnaire is expected to go out through regular mail and e-mail in September, with the findings published sometime in the fall.

    Anyone with questions, suggestions or comments about the survey should call Gerry Shields at 202-408-2705 or e-mail him at


    Alan Schlein has a new business called Deadline Online. He's teaching print and television journalists across the country about using online tools -- you guessed it -- on deadline. Visit his site:
    Mike Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers is headed to Yale Law School for a year-long fellowship funded by the Knight Foundation. Doyle, 41, will emerge from the graded, first-year classes with a master of studies in law degree. He plans to return to McClatchy's D.C. bureau, where he has worked since 1988.
    At The Associated Press, Curt Anderson was named national farm and food writer. Libby Quaid replaces him as AP's reporter in Washington on the Kansas/Missouri beat. Libby moved to D.C. from Oklahoma City, where she covered the legislature and the bombing. AP's Tom Strong has transferred to the national staff in Washington, where he is a night editor. Jennifer Loven, who covered Michigan politics and the state legislature for AP, replaces him as the Illinois regional reporter.
    David Lerman is the new Washington correspondent for the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. He succeeds Bob Kemper, who now works for the Chicago Tribune covering regional politics in the Chicago area. David previously worked as a state capital reporter for the Daily Press in Richmond.
    Bill Sternberg, Washington bureau chief for Thomson Newspapers for the past six years, has joined USA Today as Washington editor. Joe Duffus, Thomson's former manager of information systems, joined the Gannett Newspaper Division as an online technology specialist. Part of his job is to help papers plan and construct web sites.
    On a sad note, Kelly Richmond, a States News Service alum and chief political writer for the Bergen County Record , has moved home to New Mexico for cancer treatment. Doctors gave Kelly, 33, six months to live after diagnosing him in the spring with lung cancer. Kelly has won a national environmental reporting award for the past two years.
    -- Jill Miller

    Got news? Call Jill Young Miller at (202) 824-8225 or e-mail:

    EPA administrator speaks to RRA members

    By Jerry Zremski
    The Buffalo News

    Some 135 million Americans will breathe cleaner air under a new set of federal rules, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner told members of the Regional Reporters Association.
    Above all, Browner said, the new rules on ozone and particulate matter offer a national solution to what's really a regional problem.
    "These rules will offer a significant public health benefit to every region of the country," Browner said to 32 RRA members at a July 15 meeting at EPA headquarters. "This is a regional problem."
    During the 75-minute session, arranged exclusively for RRA members, Browner answered several questions about how the clean air rules will affect various regions.
    The new rules aim to cut smog-causing ozone by forcing utilities to adhere to tougher standards. Similarly, the EPA rules put the first-ever limits on particulate matter -- fine specks of pollution that can clog the lungs, causing respiratory problems.
    Browner said the EPA rules will prevent 15,000 premature deaths and 350,000 asthma attacks yearly. Opponents, led by the utility industry, say the rules' health benefits are greatly exaggerated.
    The RRA board has set up a newsmakers committee to sponsor events more frequently with cabinet secretaries and congressional leaders.


    Those trolling through television channels last month may have seen familiar regional faces.
    C-Span interviewed Maria Recio of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram live about the National Endowment for the Arts and congressional efforts to kill the agency.
    Next up was Mike Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers. He offered a review and preview of the week's congressional action.
    Deborah Mathis of Gannett News Service was identified July 11 as a national correspondent on C-Span's "Washington Journal," probably because her sub-beat is the White House. Mathis, who covers Congress for the Springfield Daily News, and National Review's Katie O'Bierne fielded phone calls from viewers and discussed news stories of the day.
    -- Ellyn Ferguson Sighted someone? Call Ellyn Ferguson at (703)276-5811 or e-mail:

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