Jim Pumarlo, Community Newspaper Training

Reporting on budgets: Tell a story with the numbers

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Publishers' Auxiliary/August 2010

It’s not too early to brainstorm ideas for timely and meaningful coverage of local government budgets. Shaping and adopting budgets is often a months-long process encompassing hours of meetings and hundreds of pages of documents. Yet most newsrooms likely observe and report only a snapshot of that process.

A balanced approach to handling public figures' dirty laundry

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The Inlander/July 2010

An individual served six months in jail for first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Thirteen years later he filed for mayor.

Another individual was arrested and charged with shoplifting a $6 sewing kit – in her words, she had “forgotten” to pay during a stressful time in her life shortly after her father’s death. Twelve years later, she filed for statewide elective office.

Do you report these transgressions as part of their candidacies? What’s your rationale?

Reporting on sensitive issues requires sound policies

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The Inlander/June 2010

Making the right decisions regarding sensitive stories is easier if you have policies in place. Elements of sound policies for reporting sensitive issues are similar to the elements of solid news stories. The same questions should be asked and the same avenues pursued:

Coping with the inevitable 'off the record' requests

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The Inlander/May 2010

Editors and reporters must be prepared to confront situations where individuals ask to speak “off the record.” That’s especially the case when writing about sensitive and challenging subjects.

Consider a tip from an assistant in City Hall who just typed a letter ratifying a severance agreement for a department head who is resigning under fire. Or consider a person who alerts the newspaper to the fact that a neighbor is going to volunteer his property as a potential landfill site.

Shine the light on government year-round

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Publishers' Auxiliary/June 2010

Convene a discussion about press rights, and most people likely conjure up scenarios of editors and reporters at loggerheads with government officials over access to top-secret data. No doubt, that can be the case, especially on the national stage.

Rights and responsibilities of reporting public records

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Publishers' Auxiliary/May 2010

A couple gets a divorce, but it is not recorded in the newspaper until four months later.

Someone appears in court for a domestic assault, but the sentence isn't reported in the newspaper until weeks after the fact.

Their publication likely raises two questions among many readers, especially the subjects of the reports: What constitutes these items as news? Why is there such a delay in the report?

Newspapers provide broadest access to government records

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The Inlander/April 2010

A city seeks bids for road maintenance. A township announces its election and annual meeting. A county publishes its annual list of delinquent taxes.

All three items are of public interest, and all are prominently displayed under the “public notices” sections in newspapers,

Web sites an integral part of election coverage

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The Inlander/March 2010

A small-town editor lamented an approaching press conference by a statewide candidate. The issues to be addressed were at the forefront of her community, but unfortunately her readers would receive the word first from the nearby daily.

Campaign season means steering politicians to the sales staff

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The Inlander/February 2010

An incumbent lawmaker advises readers of consumer friendly legislation, offering details of how they can take advantage of the measure which he supported.

Another candidate extols the virtues of Flag Day. She also congratulates citizens for their participation in a community celebration.

Someone else seeking office offers voluntary, weekly columns on timely topics.

Introducing candidates: Preparing for the yo-yo factor

Categorized under:

Publishers' Auxiliary/February 2010

Individuals arrive unannounced to launch their candidacy for an elective office. On another front, have you ever had candidates say the stories profiling their campaigns are biased?  Or how do you evaluate the barrage of photo requests during election season?

The realities and challenges of election coverage begin with proper introduction of the candidates to your staff as well as your readers.  I call it the yo-yo factor.

Pumarlo.com • Jim Pumarlo • Community Newsroom Success Strategies • 1327 W. Sixth St. • Red Wing, MN • 55066 • (651) 380-4295