University of Texas
“Public affairs reporting is in many ways the most important
function of journalism, providing citizens with the information
they require to be free and self-governing….
[It] encompasses an enormous subject area that includes crime
and criminal justice, military and defense, border and
immigration, public health and health care, budget and taxation,
energy, environment, natural resources, trade, U.S. foreign
policy, education, labor and workforce, and electoral politics.”
“In summary, public affairs reporting –– the reporting of
public issues –– constitutes the very core of journalism.
The journalist is a very real sense is the public's eye on
government and public affairs.
Without a tenacious press, much that is "public" would
never see the light of day. And still, much of it does not.”
Some example subject areas
• Government activities (federal, state, local)
• Government officials (elected officials and others)
• Government agencies
• Police and crime
• Criminal and civil court cases
• Public safety issues
• Public health reporting
• Community news
• Schools and education
• Usage of public data
• Hold authority to account
• Give communities a voice
• Reflect local realities
• Inform, educate and entertain
• Better understand your community
• Make a difference
• Great training ground
• Potential for glory!
How things have changed
Reporting in 2015
• You may cover multiple beats
• Content can be multi-media
• Often includes social
• Use of public data
Reduction on boots on the ground makes this reporting more important than
ever, as important stories risk going uncovered.
1. Police reporting
York used maps and
to demonstrate their
analysis of the city's 2011
stop and frisk numbers.
It showed more people are
stopped at the Port Authority Bus
Terminal – regardless of race –
than any other location.
2. Impact of local budgets
Birmingham City University students
showed how this might work when
in 2010 they set up a hyperlocal blog
The site was aimed at the 50,000
public sector workers in the region.
It specifically focused on budget cuts
and how they were affecting people.
of 2012 homicides
from San Jose
Supported by other
See also Homicide
4. Local Campaigns
Tackling issues which matter to a community and
which are not necessarily being addressed.
The Seattle Times and its partners collaborative
project on graffiti it took First Place in the Online/Innovation
category in the SPJ NW Excellence in Journalism contest on May 21, 2011.
• ‘Hedon Pong’ campaign of 2011 (Hedon Blog)
• Lambeth Country Show (Brixton Blog)
• CEMEX (Kings Cross Environment)
5. Telling unique stories
Stories about life in Spitalfields, East London.
Focus on human interest stories and history.
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Ambition to author 10,000 posts.
“At the rate of one a day, this will take approximately twenty-seven
years and four months. Who knows what kind of life we shall be
living in 2037 when I write my ten thousandth post?”
The importance of being authentic
“Over the last two or three years, the Chicago-based content provider has infiltrated
dozens of mid to major newspapers across the country and obtained contracts to
produce so-called "hyperlocal" news content. Those deals often lead to a horde of
firings of editorial staff at those news organizations, as some full-time office-dwellers
cede work to a small army of low-paid freelancers living all around the globe.
Had editors at these newspapers requested a meeting with the individuals producing
this new content, they'd have racked up a staggering amount of frequent flier miles.”
• Find and identify three great public affairs / community stories.
• Write 600 words + on why they’re good/bad and what attributes you
learn from them.
• Prepare two of them to share with the whole class on Weds. (Submit
your 600+ words at the same time)
• Interview one of your new classmates.
• Write 800 words on what they did this summer.
• Extra points for multi-media use to support your
• Submit by close of play 4 October.
Or visit me in
201 Allen Hall