NEWSLETTER

July 1998

Editor's note: In conjunction with The Regional Reporters Association's membership drive, the RRA board decided to cut non-dues paying members from its mailing list and programs in order to provide an incentive for continued membership. Toward this end, the board decided to test limiting free access to the online monthly newsletter. The Web version of the newsletter will only include the main story, headlines, Restive Regions and a few other offerings. Full coverage is still available in the mailed version. If you feel strongly about the issue, please let us know by e-mailing RRA..

Raleigh reporter wins Goldstein award

By Pete Leffler
Allentown Morning Call

The cantankerous Jesse Helms and a tobacco industry fighting for its life helped James Rosen of the Raleigh News and Observer win the 1998 Robin Goldstein Regional Reporting award. James Carroll received honorable mention.

Circumstances "gave me two ongoing national stories with very strong regional roots," says Rosen, 43. "That's the ideal. It gives you the opportunity to compete with the national reporters and do strong regional work."

Rosen said he could have covered the proposed tobacco settlement fulltime. Likewise Sen. Helms -- and his ugly feud with former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld over an ambassadorship to Mexico -- offered fertile ground for stories.

But one thing that impressed the National Press Club judges about Rosen's work was its diversity. Rosen also wowed the panel with his beautiful writing and his "keen insight into how Washington-based stories affect the readers back home," the judges wrote.

Rosen's entries, the judges said, included insightful profiles, a critical view of the plight of black family farmers and even a "heart-felt tribute to his own father."

Asked for clues to his success, Rosen said he spends as much time as possible on enterprise pieces rather than spot dailies. Half of the 100-plus stories he filed last year wound up on the paper's front page, he said. The Sacramento Bee and other papers in the McClatchy Newspapers chain picked up a number of his pieces.

"If I have a single rule of thumb, it's that I should be writing for the front page," he said.

Rosen encourages regionals to stay motivated and be on the lookout for good stories no one else is doing. "They don't have to be big, investigative hits," he says.

Rosen is careful to cultivate and spend face time with key sources. But to be efficient he does much of his legwork from his desk in the National Press Building.

"This whole thing about burning up the shoe leather is exaggerated," he says. "It all came about before the telephone was invented."

Rosen has been in Washington nearly four years. His honor includes a $1,000 award.

Carroll, who wrote for the Long Beach Press Telegram (Knight-Ridder) but now works for the Louisville Courier Journal (Gannett Newspapers), won the Goldstein award in 1997. His stories included a look at the future of the former Long Beach Shipyard to one contrasting Long Beach and San Diego.




Rosen reflects on winning the award

By James Rosen
Raleigh News & Observer




Ottaway closes office, cuts seven jobs

By Jerry Zremski
The Buffalo News




Respect for story comes decade later

By Maria Recio
Fort Worth Star-Telegram




Board minutes

RRA committees were reorganized. Carl Weiser will continue heading the Newsmaker Committee, while newcomer Susan Roth will lead the Professional Development Committee.

The board discussed topics suggested by RRA members for a proposed briefing with President Clinton. The board decided to narrow the agenda to education, health care/patient bill of rights and the E-rate program. RRA President Christine Dorsey said she planned to refine the proposal further and discuss it with White House officials.

The board voted to offer complimentary RRA membership to reporters at States News Service to partly compensate for the free printing of the monthly newsletter that States has done for several years.

Dec. 7 is the tentative date for the RRAís 10th anniversary event and celebration. Discussions are still ongoing with the Freedom Forum, but it likely would be a half-day event.

Christine raised the possibility of RRA putting together a monthly calendar of agency events. Jerry Zremski raised the idea of arranging a discounted group membership to the Capital YMCA for RRA members. The board also discussed conducting a training session on campaign finance in September.




Foundation regroups

Brett Lieberman of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., was elected president of the Regional Reporters Educational Foundation at its annual election on June 15.

RREF is the non-profit, tax-exempt sister organization of the Regional Reporters Association. This yearís goals include seeking funds to help pay for an event marking RRA's 10th anniversary.

Lieberman takes over for Alice Lipowicz of Crain's New York Business. Lipowicz remains on the RREF board.

Alan Schlein of Schlein News Bureau and Deadline Online was re-elected vice president. Robert Gavin of the Syracuse Post-Standard and Herald American was elected secretary. Election of a treasurer was postponed.

Elected as a contributor director was Chris Callahan, assistant dean of the University of Maryland School of Journalism. As officers of RRA, Christine Dorsey of Donrey Media Group, Carl Weiser of Gannett News Service, Maureen Groppe of Thomson Newspapers and Lieberman are automatically on the RREF board.




President's Report

By Christine Dorsey
Donrey Media Group

Stop the madness!

Between Stephen Glass, the Boston Globe, Chiquita Banana and now CNN, I'm afraid to open the morning paper for fear I'll read about yet another unscrupulous reporter or news outlet that has let competition get in the way of solid journalism.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was when I read that Peter Arnett, the CNN correspondent "reprimanded" for his involvement in a retracted story about the alleged use of nerve gas on U.S. defectors during Vietnam, did very little work on the project.

According to a recent Washington Post story, Arnett said he read background information provided by the story's producers before conducting scripted interviews, and allowed his name to be used in the Time magazine article for "marketing reasons."

Can you imagine spending months on a story that big, only to have your newspaper's or network's "star" swoop in to steal the glory for "marketing reasons?" I don't have enough information to form an opinion on whether CNN was right to abandon ship on the story, but I can only assume it must have had serious problems for the network to respond the way it did.

The Cincinnati Enquirer story about Chiquita Banana, prompting a $10 million settlement with the company, is a different problem. The paper pulled the story from its Web site, and I haven't been able to read it, so I can't comment on its content. But the story is not really the issue. The issue is privacy, and whether the reporter obtained voice mail messages illegally.

New Republic reporter Stephen Glass and Boston Globe columnist Patricia Smith offer yet another issue to contemplate. Is our industry so competitive that it causes reporters to feel pressured to make up sources, facts or entire stories in order to get ahead?

I think not. The truth is, journalism attracts egos. We all have them, whether we like to admit it or not. Some are larger than others, and these are the reporters who risk getting into trouble. I dare anyone to find a reporter who is in this business for the money (OK, Barbara Walters, etc. don't count). After all, aren't we really in it for the "fame?"

We all want to find that "big" story. That one that will put us on the map ó the one that will propel our careers, or just prompt a lot of back-slapping and accolades. And maybe a Pulitzer.

What are we willing to do to get that story? How many corners are we willing to cut? How much will we push a story that, in reality, has no guts? And how willing are we to stand up to editors whose expectations exceed what we can produce?

These are questions I think we all struggle with at some point in our careers. We all, no doubt, have had at least one story that, no matter how great, scared us to death. We've all walked into the newsroom Monday morning dreading the backlash from a Sunday story.

The litmus test, I believe, ought to be the answer to this basic question: Is what I'm writing or producing worthy of my audience? If you can't answer an honest "yes," you might want to consider another line of work.

RRA president Christine Dorsey can be reached at (202) 783-1760 or by e-mail, cdorsey@nationalpress.com..




Restive Regions

The entire Washington bureau of Ottaway has been closed, leaving regional reporters Judy Mathewson, Mark Wigfield and Michael Mello without work. Also laid off was bureau chief Bill Schmick.

Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel correspondent Jill Miller has elected to pursueopportunities in Washington rather than accept the paperís request to return to Florida to cover education issues. Jill served on the RRA board last year.

At the Associated Press, Fred Frommer is filling in for Kathy Rizzo, who is on parental leave. He's covering Ohio. Previously, he had freelance stints at CNN and other news organizations.

So far, The Denver Post has not filled the post left open by Adriel Bettelheim's move to "Congressional Quarterly." Adriel says the position may stay vacant until after the elections. For now, the Post is relying on States News Service for Washington coverage.

Phil Willon, a former RRA board member, has left his job as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune for a position with the Los Angles Times covering the San Fernando Valley. Phil worked for the Tribune for nearly 10 years. His position will be filled from inside the newspaper.

-- Patrick Howe,
Small Newspaper Group

Got news? Call JPatrick Howe at (202) 662-7123.




IN BRIEF




Rate the congressional rating groups

By Jim Specht
Gannett News Service




WWWeblink

More and more journalists are developing their own Web pages, with many designed specifically for their beats. And number of them have pages that others can use as starting points for Web searches.

A good all-around page belongs to Duff Wilson from the Seattle Times. He has pulled together several search engines that you can use in a combined mega-search. And he has the search forms for Hoover's Online (company profiles), The Washington Post (which includes two weeks of AP) and EDGAR, the Securities and Exchange Commission database.

He also has a variety of links for reference sites (maps, yellow pages), government sites (all the basics) and press sites (including the fill-in FOIA form). His site is: http://www.seanet.com/~duff.

Other good journalistsí sites include U. Md. Assistant Dean Christopher Callahan's Web page (http://reporter.umd.edu) and former AP database editor Drew Sullivan's page (http://www.reporter.org/~drew).

Callahan has links grouped under different topics, including maps/directories, business and non-profits and e-mailing lists. Sullivan, meanwhile, has dozens of links in his "Database of Databases" that are all available on the Web.

-- Lolita Baldor,
New Haven Register




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