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Public Affairs Reporting Now

Book Description

Everyday life, no whether the issues or events arise next-door or a continent away, raises questions and concerns that the public counts on journalists to answer and, more important, confront.

More than ever before, we all rely on the news media for warnings, explanations and insights. The profession - and society - cannot afford lazy, inept, uncommitted journalists. Today's reporters must learn how to cover public affairs intelligently and thoroughly. First you must learn about the institutions and people who influence the news; understanding how a legislative conference committee functions or how a trial is conducted remain important pre-requisites. But it is not enough merely to know how to report. Journalists must also understand how they see, define and influence the news.

Don't be fooled by the daily dose of fluffy stories about fads, fashions or fetishes. People love to revel in celebrity gossip or fantasize about extreme makeovers. But Donald Trump's love life or the South Beach Diet don't satisfy when people worry about a home invasion in their neighborhood or a rezoning proposal to bring a Wal-Mart super center to town or a Department of Education report that their child's school scored bottom-most in reading achievement.

Public Affairs Reporting Now is intended to teach you the best practices and give you the best advice for covering what's generically known as "public affairs reporting.” It's a term that's neither inspiring nor precise, but it's long been a convenient way of describing the kind of news coverage that keeps people informed as citizens and keeps our institutions, public and private, focused on the public good.

Table of Contents

  1. Front Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Preface
  8. 1 The Roles and Realities of Reporting
    1. A Reporter’s Role
    2. A Reporter’s Orientation
    3. A Reporter’s Reality
    4. The Competent Reporter
      1. Communication Literacy
      2. Cultural Literacy
      3. Technological Literacy
    5. Models for Journalism and Journalists
      1. Humanistic Reporting
      2. Anticipatory Reporting
      3. Explanatory Reporting
  9. 2 The Ways and Means of Reporting
    1. The Beat System
    2. Methods of Reporting
      1. Observation
      2. Interviewing
      3. Documents and Data
      4. Social-Science Research
  10. 3 Striving for Accuracy
    1. Warning: Potential Errors Ahead
      1. Recognizing Interviewing Errors
      2. Seeing and Believing
      3. Counting on Numbers
      4. Out of Context
      5. Not Getting Fooled
      6. Exaggeration
      7. Misshaping the News?
      8. Haste and Waste
      9. Failure to Admit Ignorance
      10. Evaluating and Selecting Information
    2. Telling the Whole Story
  11. 4 Closed Meetings, Sealed Records and “Off-Limits” Signs
    1. Access and the Right to Gather News
    2. Access to Governmental Meetings
    3. Access to Government Records
      1. Loopholes and Exemptions
      2. Strategies for Obtaining Information
      3. Online Access to Records
      4. Access to Federal Records and Meetings
    4. Access to the Judicial System
      1. Grand Juries
      2. Juvenile Cases
      3. Pretrial Proceedings
      4. Trials
      5. Restrictive Orders
      6. Court Records and Documents
      7. Civil Law and Access
      8. Contempt Power
    5. Dealing with “Off-Limits” Signs
    6. New Battlegrounds over Access
      1. Military Operations
      2. Access to Electronic Records
      3. Access to Visual Records
      4. Access to Medical Information
    7. Fear of Talking
  12. 5 The Neighborhood Approach
    1. The Fall and Rise of Neighborhoods
      1. Neighborhood Perspectives
      2. Neighborhoods and News Organizations
    2. Local News as Community Connector
      1. Goals for Neighborhood News
      2. Strategies for Neighborhood-Based Stories
    3. Stories from the Neighborhood
  13. 6 Government News for the People
    1. Covering the City and the Hall
      1. Functions and Role of City Government
      2. The Structure of City Government
      3. Who’s Who in City Hall
    2. How to Cover Council Meetings
      1. Preparation
      2. What to Expect
      3. Legislative Process
      4. Writing Meeting Stories
    3. Financing City Government
      1. Revenue and Expenditures
      2. Borrowing
      3. The Budget-Making Process
    4. Cities and Land Use
    5. Local Government
      1. County Government
      2. Township Government
      3. Regional Government
      4. Special Districts
    6. Covering State and Federal Government
      1. State Government
      2. Federal Government
  14. 7 Public Safety: Crimes to Corrections
    1. Crime and the Mass Media
    2. Behind the Badge
    3. Inside the Police Department
      1. Organization
      2. Facilities and Equipment
      3. Communications
      4. Operating Policies
    4. Working with Police
      1. The Blotter
      2. Stories from the Police Beat
      3. Press-Police Relationships
    5. Danger Zones
      1. Arrests, Warrants and Rights
      2. Crime Data
      3. Bias and Labels
      4. Handle with Care
    6. Public-Safety Agencies
      1. State Police
      2. Sheriff’s Department
      3. Federal Law Agencies
      4. Crime Laboratories
      5. Medical Examiners
      6. Fire Departments and Emergency Services
      7. Jails and Prisons
  15. 8 Into the Legal Maze
    1. The Judicial System: Structure and Process
      1. The Long and Winding Road
      2. Roots and Branches of Law
      3. Principles, Characteristics and Qualities
    2. Civil Cases
      1. Commencing a Civil Action
      2. Covering the Civil Courts
    3. Criminal Cases
      1. The Genesis of a Criminal Case
      2. Covering the Criminal Courts
  16. 9 The Trial and Thereafter
    1. The Big Show
      1. Stage Directions
      2. The Jury
      3. Opening Statements
      4. Evidence and Witnesses
      5. Closing Arguments
      6. The Decision
    2. Reporting Trials
    3. Verdicts, Judgments, Sentences and Appeals
      1. Sentencing
      2. Probation
      3. Parole and Pardons
      4. Civic Verdicts and Judgments
      5. Appeals
      6. Finding, Reading and Explaining Court Decisions
    4. Special Courts, Special Problems
      1. Probate Courts
      2. Juvenile Courts
      3. Bankruptcy
  17. 10 Special Beats, New Challenges
    1. Medicine and Science
      1. Medicine
      2. Science
      3. Health
      4. Environment
    2. Education
      1. Education on the Local Level
      2. State and Federal Involvement
      3. Higher Education
      4. What’s Wrong with Education—or What’s Right?
    3. Religion, Values and Ethics
    4. Campaigns and Elections
      1. Politicians and the Press
      2. The Character of Campaigns
      3. Campaign Financing
      4. Election Coverage
    5. Business and Economic News
      1. Into the Business World
      2. Economic Indicators
      3. Labor and the Workplace
    6. Diversity in Life and Perspective
      1. The Homeless and Disadvantaged
      2. African-Americans
      3. Gender
      4. People with Disabilities
      5. Older Citizens
      6. Children
  18. 11 Lessons in Law and Ethics
    1. Libel
      1. Elements of Libel
      2. Determining Fault: A Tough Call
      3. Defenses
    2. Private Lives vs. the Public’s Business
      1. Intrusion
      2. Embarrassing Facts
      3. False Light
    3. Privacy and Libel Danger Zones
    4. Journalists and Their Sources
      1. Granting Anonymity: Risks and Rewards
      2. Reporting Rumors
      3. Dealing with Sources
      4. Quoting Sources
  19. Index