Analysis Local/Beat Reporting

Although local and beat reporting, in terms of coverage, is narrower than other genres, it doesn’t mean it’s less significant.

In fact, some of the best reporting, with the most valuable insight to humanity and life in general, can come from local and beat reporting.

These 5 examples of local and beat reporting help demonstrate some of the key elements that create clear and effective pieces. They each tell a story from their respective environment, thus each one is specialized and unique.

Pension twist costs county millions

By Dave Umhoefer

Winner, Pulitzer Prize- Local Reporting, 2008

Umhoefer reports on a dubious pension plan occurring in the Milwaukee area.

This article is an excellent example of shoe-leather reporting. Umhoefer takes a report on a pension plan done by another news source, and hits the streets to find individuals who are benefitting from the plan.

Despite the fact that this article is targeted to Milwaukee County residents, it is written well enough that it is both interesting and informative to those who live outside the county line. Umhoefer goes extremely in-depth with his article, so much so that he wrote the piece as a 6 part series.

He reports on multiple individuals throughout the article that range from all ends of the economic spectrum. He not only talks about what the pension buybacks are currently doing for people, but what it also means for future generations. What makes this article great though, is the way Umhoefer took a local County issue, and made it into a much larger and much more appreciated concern simply by diligent and in-depth reporting.

House of Lie$

By Debbie Cenziper

Winner, Pulitzer Prize- Local Reporting, 2007

A look at a crumbling community in Miami, FL and how millions of dollars are wasted on housing developments that never get built.

This article, like the Umhoefer piece, dissects an on-going issue in a local community, and gives valuable insight to the living conditions of one of the poorest areas in the United States.

What Cenziper accomplishes here is she manages to break the story on the ineffectiveness of a local Housing agency, while at the same time depicting the squalor conditions of the area. She uses multiple sources, including high-profile officials and local residents, in order to convey the seriousness of the situation.

What is especially effective are the pictures that Cenziper includes in the article. These pictures show vacant lots that were supposed to be developed into housing projects and residential homes. It is one thing to simply mention and report on the situation, but visual evidence makes a huge impact on the reader. Her article is an excellent example of local reporting that ensures that the overall message is not lost on anyone.

U Basketball program accused of academic fraud

By George Dohrmann

Winner, Pulitzer Prize- Beat Reporting, 2000

This article covers an academic scandal that showed the University of Minnesota.

Beat reporting can often be a difficult category of journalism, as reporters are required to obtain countless information, reliable insight, and also be aware of emerging issues and potential side stories.

This article is effective because it follows an institution that affects people all across the country. Not only does it impact students and alumni of the University of Minnesota, but it also allows for other readers to question the moral integrity of their own colleges and universities.

The article first describes the situation in order to inform the reader what exactly is going on. Dohrmann establishes the setting and then proceeds to outline the story as it has occurred over the years.

Dohrmann provides specific and intimate details along with quotes and insights from first account sources. He does a good job of not offering an opinion on the subject, but rather presents the information in a specific, well-organized and unbiased approach.

CIA holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons

By Dana Priest

Winner, Pulitzer Prize- Beat Reporting, 2006

Priest covers the CIA control over Terrorist suspects and the debate over where to house these suspects.

This article, unlike the Dohrmann piece, is a lot more critical and forceful in its tone. Rather than ease the reader into the setting, Priest opens up immediately with the situation in her opening sentence.

Priest supports her story with multiple examples and locations. Because of the nature of the story, it is difficult to obtain information and credible leads. However Priest does an excellent job of providing in-depth information on a story that is very secretive and highly controversial.

The article is also impressive because even though Priest is covering a single organization, the story involves multiple associations that span all across the globe. The article does an excellent job of intertwining these groups in a manner that is poignant and effective. It shows how beat reporting doesn’t have to simply follow one group and one story. It can focus on a central party but allow for the story to branch out and become more involved.

College Ties: For Groton Grads, Academic aren’t only Keys to Ivies

By Daniel Golden

Winner, Pulitzer Prize- Beat Reporting- 2004

Golden looks at how family ties often factor into College admission decisions.

In this article, Golden does a good job of capturing the reader with the story of Henry Park and the Groton Boarding School. Rather than simply report with statistics and figures, Golden entices the reader with personal stories of several individuals. Not only does this entertain and motivate the reader to continue, but it also provides some important contextual information on the subject.

In later articles on the same subject, Golden analyzes the situation using numbers and percentages. This is done in order to solidify his report with credible and pertinent information. Golden then does an excellent job of showing other problems with the admission process, and highlights several other groups that are affected by the situation.

What makes this article so impressive is Golden’s versatility in his writing. He demonstrates the ability to write both the personal/human stories as well as the numerical/fact-based stories. He does a good job of grabbing the reader and then providing the necessary information. Above all else though, he does not limit himself to a one-dimensional story, and instead attacks the issue from multiple angles and situations.

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One Comment on “Analysis Local/Beat Reporting”

  1. Janna Says:

    I am really enjoying the work you are doing in our class. Keep it up. Give us more!

    You should start isolating your “Top Three Tips” on this particular assignment each week into a little info box. Type it in Microsoft Word and then use Grab to make it an image that you can drop into your layout with your synthesis in WordPress. Ask me if you need help. I would like to see everyone doing this on these assignments from now on (and even going back to insert them in the first three assignments).


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