Legislative coverage better with team effort
KAREN PETERSON; executive editor
Successfully navigating a session of the state Legislature requires teamwork and collaboration. Certainly that’s the case for state senators and representatives. It also is true for news outlets, such as The News Tribune, that cover Washington’s Statehouse.
The 2011 regular and special sessions that ended Wednesday night marked the first time our paper has partnered so closely with other news organizations – particularly The Olympian – in an effort to bring readers coverage that was deep and wide and customized for our South Sound audience.
Jordan Schrader is the TNT’s main Statehouse reporter. Schrader wrote or helped to write 56 legislative stories this year, including one coming Monday about how businesses fare in the new state budget. Columnist Peter Callaghan also devoted a good share of his column over the past five months – including today’s installment – to opining about Olympia politics. Schrader and Callaghan form the basis of our statehouse team.
Increasingly in recent years, we have partnered with Brad Shannon, who used to work exclusively for The Olympian. Nowadays, he and Schrader share an office on the Capitol Campus and start their work days plotting how they’ll work together to serve each of their communities. Rather than duplicating coverage of a single story, they can each cover a different issue, and the papers can trade stories back and forth.
We don’t see Shannon or The Olympian as the competition, but as partners who help us bring readers twice as many stories each day. We ran 31 of Shannon’s legislative stories this year. His focus often was on state workers, an issue of obvious importance to Olympia, a company town whose company is state government.
Another 27 stories during the session came from Katie Schmidt, our University of Washington intern, who made a particularly strong showing. More than half of Schmidt’s stories ran on the front page, and she covered vital topics including looming tuition increases at state universities.
The Associated Press was another important player in our team coverage. Taking its stories on statewide matters allowed us to concentrate on local coverage our readers could not find anywhere else, including the threatened closure of the Washington State History Museum and the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana dispensaries in Tacoma. Schrader and Shannon also focused on their respective Pierce County and Thurston County delegations so readers could follow the performance of their own representatives.
In addition to running these stories in the newspaper, we shared them at thenewstribune.com
, along with hundreds of posts on our Political Buzz blog. The blog had 20 updates from Olympia in the last two days of the session alone.
Like the legislators, our reporters will need a few days’ rest to recover from a long and busy session, but look for our partnerships to continue on Statehouse coverage and in other areas.
We are pleased to announce that a number of our staffers won awards last weekend at the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest. The contest honors work in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The TNT competes in the large newspaper category.
Here are our winners:
• Investigative reporting: Second place to Sean Robinson for his series about Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam.
• Education reporting: Second place to Debbie Cafazzo for her piece on Lincoln Center, the innovative school within a school at Lincoln High School.
• Sports feature stories: Second place to Doug Pacey for his story about Tahoma High School soccer player Kendall Lindberg, who was paralyzed in a surfing accident in Hawaii.
• Business columns: Third place to Bill Virgin.
• Lifestyles reporting: Third place to Craig Hill for his first-person story on family road trips.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8738