Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome to Public Affairs Reporting, Fall '08

Here are your first assigments:

A. By midnight tonight, send me the story from the short speech I gave in class. Send it as a Word attachment to

B. By 9 a.m. Tuesday, send me an e-mail with your first and second choices for a beat to cover. I’ll let you know your assigned beat by the day’s end. (Make sure you use your grizmail account.)

The choices are:

1. Local government: How are city and county governments dealing with issues such as public safety, transportation, growth? How are your readers affected? Read: Governing. Major institutions: City Council, County Commission.

2. K-12 education: Tens of thousands of Montanans are either enrolled in local schools or have children attending them. All of us pay tax to support the schools. What are children learning? How are they performing? Is the education community meeting students’ needs in the 21st century? What educational controversies do schools face? Are schools spending taxpayers’ money productively? Read: Education Week. Major institutions: Missoula County Public Schools.

3. Higher education: As consumers of higher ed, you have a vested interest in how the system works (or doesn’t work, as the case may be). Follow the changes and controversies: cost, access, changes in administration, curriculum, interaction with societal issues and controversies. How are colleges performing? Read: The Chronicle of Higher Education. Major institutions: UM, ASUM.

4. Justice I: You’ll cover breaking crime and disaster news in the Missoula area. This beat involves making the rounds constantly. Major institutions: Missoula Police Department, Campus Safety, Missoula County sheriff’s Department, Missoula Fire Department, Municipal (city) and Justice (county) courts.

5. Justice II: You cover cases in district (state) and federal courts. How is justice being served? What’s happening in newsworthy criminal cases? Who’s suing whom in civil cases? Major institutions: Missoula County District Courts (We have four district judges who handle cases involving violations of state law or civil cases between Montanans.) We have a federal courthouse with a U.S. district judge and a U.S. magistrate. (They handle cases involving violations of federal laws and suits between citizens of different states or against federal agencies.)

6. Public health: You’ll cover issues of interest to the public health, like outbreaks of disease, new diseases (West Nile) or health trends of concern (obesity, smoking, etc). You cover changes and controversies in the local health care system (access to services, costs, changes and trends in treatment options). Read: The Nation’s Health ( Major institutions: City-County Health Department, St. Patrick Hospital, Community Memorial Hospital, UM’s Curry Health Center.

7. Natural resources, the environment: You’ll look for local angles to environmental controversies such as climate change, air and water quality and the health of forests, grasslands and wildlife habitat (wildfires). Read: High Country News ( Major institutions: U.S. Forest Service, the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, city air and water quality officials, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Lots of environmetal organizations too: Clark Fork Coalition, Five Valleys Land Trust, Friends of the Bitterroot, Wilderness Society, etc.

8. Energy/transportation: This beat gets more important with every jump in gas prices. What’s happening with access to and costs of energy? Utility rates? What’s new in alternative fuels? Public transportation? Alternative modes of transportation? What’s happening to roads and runways? Access and cost of air, rail or bus travel, etc. Read:
Major institutions: Mountain Line, Missoula International Airport, local and state street and highway departments, federal Department of Energy, Northwestern energy.

9. Undercovered communities: Think of it as the minorities/civil rights beat. What sort of discrimination do you see? What stories are NOT being told about minority communities? You should find a lot of stories among not only racial and ethnic minorities but with the disabled, religious minorities, fringe political or social organizations, gay, lesbian and transgender people, etc.

10. Politics: You’ll be covering elections, and there are a million ways to do it. We have local contests galore and you can find local election angles to national campaigns as well. Read: Local, state and national election news. Major institutions: Local party central committees, county election officials (they run the elections), Montana Secretary of State, Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, Federal Election Commission, etc.

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