1st Edition

Public Affairs Reporting Now
News of, by and for the People

ISBN 9780240808253
Published September 26, 2007 by Routledge
398 Pages

USD $52.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


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

Chapter 1: The Roles and Realities of Reporting

A Reporter's World

Reporting as an Attitude

The Competent Reporter (revised heading)
Communication Literacy
Cultural Literacy
Technological Literacy

Models for Journalism and Journalists
Humanistic Reporting
Anticipatory Reporting
Explanatory Reporting

Chapter 2: The Ways and Means of Reporting

The Beat System

Reporting as a Practice and Convention (new section)

Methods of Reporting
Documents and Data
Social-Science Research
Information Technology

Chapter 3: To Err is Human - But Often Avoidable

Warning: Potential Errors Ahead
Interviewing Errors
Seeing and Believing
Counting on Numbers
Out of Context
Not Getting Fooled
Shaping the News?
Haste and Waste
A Question of Taste
Letting Ignorance Show
Evaluating and Selection Information

Telling the Whole Story

Chapter 4: The Neighborhood Approach to Public Affairs Coverage

Why Focus on the Neighborhood?

Neighborhood Profile
Getting to Know You
Mapping and Reconnoitering
Find a Guide

Lessons and Leads from History

Finding and Reporting on Neighborhood-based Stories

Chapter 5: Closed Meetings, Seal Records and "Off Limits” Signs

Access and the Right to Gather News

Access to Governmental Meetings

Access to Government Records
Loopholes and Exemptions

Access to the Judicial System
Grand Juries
Juvenile Cases
Pretrial Proceedings
Restrictive Orders
Court Records and Documents
Civil Law and Access
Contempt Power

Dealing with "Off Limits” Signs

New Battlegrounds over Access

Fear of Talking

Chapter 6: Government News for the People

Covering the City and the Hall
Functions and role of city government
The Structure of City Government
Who's Who in City Hall

Covering Council Meetings
What to Expect
Legislative Process
Writing Meeting Stories

Financing City Government
Revenue and Expenditures
The Budget-Making Process

Cities and Land Use

Covering Local Government
County Government
Township Government
Regional Government
Special Districts

Covering State and Federal Government
State Government
Federal Government

Chapter 7: Public Safety: Crimes to Corrections

Crime and the News Media

Behind the Badge

Inside the Police Department
Hiring and Training
Facilities and Equipment
Communications and Intelligence
Operating Policies

Working with Police
The Blotter
Stories from the Police Beat
Press-Police Relationships

Danger Zones
Arrests, Warrants and Rights
Crime Statistics
Bias and Labels
Handle with Care

Public-Safety Agencies
Sheriff's Department
State Police
Federal Law Agencies
Crime Laboratories
Medical Examiners
Fire Departments and Emergency Services
Jails, Prisons and Penitentiaries

Chapter 8: Into the Legal Maze

The Judicial System: Structure and Process
A Long, Winding Road
Roots and Branches of Law
Principles, Characteristics and Qualities

Civil Cases
Commencing a Civil Action
Covering the Civil Courts

Criminal Cases
The Genesis of a Criminal Case
Covering the Criminal Courts

Chapter 9: The Trial and Thereafter

The Big Show
Stage Directions (new section)
The Jury
Opening Statements
Evidence and Witnesses
Closing Arguments
The Decision

Reporting Trials

Verdicts, Judgments, Sentences and Appeals
Understanding the Court's Words and Actions (new section)
Probation, Parole and Pardons
Civic Verdicts and Judgments
Finding, Reading and Explaining Court Decisions

Chapter 10: Special Beats, New Challenges

The Scientific World
Scientific Research
Health and Wellness

Education on the Local Level
State and Federal Involvement
Higher Education
What's Wrong with Education - and What's Right?

Religion, Values and Ethics (expanded heading)

Diversity in Life and Viewpoint (new heading)
The Homeless and Disadvantaged
Sexual Orientation
People with Disabilities
Older Citizens

Business and Economic News
Into the Business World
Takeovers and Mergers
Economic Indicators

Campaigns and Elections
Politicians and the Press
The Character of Campaigns
Campaign Finance and Disclosure
Election Coverage

Chapter 11: Lessons in Law and Ethics

Elements of Libel
Determining Fault: A Tough Call

Private Lives vs. The Public's Business
Embarrassing Facts
False Light

Privacy and Libel Danger Zones

Journalists and Their Sources
Granting Anonymity: Risks and Rewards
Reporting Rumors
Dealing with Sources
Quoting Sources

Telling the Truth

A Journalist's Creed

View More



G. Michael Killenberg is professor and founding director of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at USF St. Petersburg, a Program of Distinction at the university. He joined USF in 1988 after 15 years at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where he was director of graduate studies in mass communications. In his professional career, he has been a reporter and editor for weekly and daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. His publications have focused on media law, community reporting and ethics in news interviewing. He is the author of Public Affairs Reporting: Covering the News in the Information Age (1992), and co-author of Before the Story: Interviewing and Communication Skills for Journalists (1989); The Conversation of Journalism: Community, Communication and News (1994); and Interviewing: Speaking, Listening and Learning for Professional Life (1999). In 1998, he received the USF Professorial Excellence award.