April 1998

The Reporterís Assessment

Jodi Wilgoren of the Los Angeles Times wrote recently about the refusal by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., to speak to reporters from her newspaper, a treatment that many regional reporters get now and then from lawmakers they cover. Here's her assessment.

So, did the "If-you-don't-talk-to-me-I'll-write-a-story-about-you-not-talking-to-me" strategy work?

In short, no.

Rohrabacher apparently loved my column. His very nice press secretary, Natasha Clerihue, called to tell me so in her usual polite way (though she was concerned that she might get a bad rep because I'd portrayed her as so nice). He even yukked it up with me at a reception shortly after the piece ran, mentioning what a talented writer I am and how funny it was.

Then the freeze continued.

I called to interview him for a profile about a colleague who is running for governor. No comment. A co-worker who covers the White House called him in search of a quote regarding Al Gore's All Earth, All the Time idea -- he wouldn't come to the phone.

My partner covering California issues and politics, Faye Fiore, had the best one: Rohrabacher was quoted in the Orange County Register suggesting that Rep. Jay Kim, R-Calif., should step aside in light of his conviction on campaign finance violations and his subsequent sentencing to home confinement. She wanted to know whether he really said that.

Actually, no, Dana's aides told her. The Register got it wrong and was planning to print a corrected version of the quote the following day.

Well, Faye asked, what did he say?

Sorry, Natasha said in her oh-so-polite way. He doesn't talk to The Times.

If at first you don't succeed . . .

-- Jodi Wilgoren,
The Los Angeles Times

Census Estimates Released to RRA

By Jerry Zremski
The Buffalo News

The nation's metropolitan areas are coming to resemble donuts, with a hole in the middle and more and more of the population on the outskirts, U.S. Census Bureau officials told regional reporters.

Releasing the bureau's 1997 county population estimates, Census Bureau geographer David Rain said: "The county-level growth patterns suggest that the population is continuing to spread outward from the established metropolitan-area cores."

Census officials noted that for non-metropolitan counties within 25 miles of a metro area, population grew by 0.7 percent between 1996 and 1997. Other non-metro counties shrunk by 0.1 percent.

The March briefing was the first Census event held in conjunction with its annual county estimates.

Organized with the Regional Reporters Association, more than 25 regionals attended. The next day, the front pages of The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and other large dailies featured the story. Because of the event's success, Census officials have promised to hold similar briefings in the future.

The numbers are on the Web: The numbers give details on how the nation's counties are shrinking or growing and offer information on things such as deaths, births and migration.

The numbers showed Maricopa County, Ariz., to be the fastest growing county in the nation in terms of sheer numbers, adding 82,789 residents. Los Angeles County followed, adding 61,623.

In percentage terms, Douglas Co., Colo., led the way with a 12.9 percent gain. Lincoln Co., S.D., followed with a 9.9 percent increase.

The briefing was another sign of what has become a strong relationship between the Census Bureau and RRA.

RRA previously sponsored an event on the bureau's County Business Patterns data, and at RRA's request, Census donated more than $1,000 worth of CD-ROMs to the National Press Club library for use by regionals and other reporters.

HEADS UP: Land Management Event in May

Patrick A. Shea, director of the Bureau of Land Management, will be RRA's May newsmaker. He will speak FRIDAY, MAY 15 at 2 p.m. Place TBA, but will probably be at either BLM downtown or at Interior. Check the RRA Web page for updates.

Congrats, Paul Miller Fellows

The 1997-98 Paul Miller class graduates this month.

The class, made up of regional reporters new to the Washington beat, spent the last 12 months attending seminars with newsmakers, agency heads and others whose insights help reporters learn the ropes.

This year's participants include: John Biers, States News Service; James Carroll, Louisville Courier-Journal; Ruth Conniff, The Progressive; Ken Foskett, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Robert Gavin, Newhouse News Service; Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; James Grimaldi, The Seattle Times; Desiree Hicks, Akron Beacon Journal; Carol Leonnig, Charlotte Observer; Jennifer Maddox, Scripps Howard News Service; Scott Montgomery, Dayton Daily News; Rhonda Pence, Dispatch Broadcast Group; Tracey Reeves, Knight-Ridder; and Chris Tollefson, Casper Star-Tribune.

The 1998-99 Miller class was scheduled for announcement at an April 22 graduation ceremony for the outgoing class. All former Paul Miller Fellows were invited.

Board minutes

The RRA board selected June 8 for the annual RRA general membership meeting and election.

The board, at its April 13 meeting, also discussed ideas for professional development programs brought up at a recent Regional Reporters Educational Foundation meeting.

Some RREF members expressed interest in providing individualized computer training for RRA members. The RRA board generally agreed that was an idea worth pursuing as long as no RREF board member benefits financially.

Upcoming newsmaker events were discussed, including potential briefings with the Commerce Department and Health Care Financing Administration.

In the works is a briefing May 15 with officials at the Bureau of Land Management.

RRA board members will also begin making phone calls to association members who have not yet paid their 1998 dues.

The next RRA board meeting will be May 4.

-- Pete Leffler,
Allentown Morning Call

President's Report

By Jerry Zremski
The Buffalo News

I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but there's a neat new slogan on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's home page:

"There's more here than meets the eye."

That's what the special prosecutor said, I'm sure. Obviously, the folks at HUD didn't think about all of the, um, ramifications of their new motto.

Nevertheless, I can see why they used it. It's an appropriate slogan in all sorts of situations. It even applies to the Regional Reporters Association.

No, don't panic -- we're not doing anything untoward with your dues money. It's just that a lot more work goes into RRA than you might know.

Just look at what we did in the month of March, which was probably our busiest in memory.

Vice President Christine Dorsey arranged a get-together with Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. The session yielded all sorts of good regional news tidbits on such topics as the transportation bill, air fares and the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Carl Weiser of our Newsmaker Committee arranged a meeting with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in which the senator spoke on his campaign finance overhaul. McCain also offered a newsworthy preview of the tobacco bill now moving through the Senate.

Midwest regional director Jonathan Riskind arranged a sit-down session with governors on the Internet sales tax issue.

At-large director Sylvia Smith arranged a panel discussion on the environmental regulation of agricultural waste -- a well-attended session that, according to Hill staffers, sparked new interest in the issue among regionals.

And I helped put together the Census Bureau's first-ever press event for the release of the annual county population estimates -- an event that used to pass by without much fanfare.

Not to brag, or anything, but you should know that hours of work went into each of those events. We spend hours on the phone working out the logistics.

We spend more time putting out faxes, e-mails and daybook listings so that our members know about our events. Some of us end up missing parts of these events because we're so busy manning the door. Then we have to write thank-you letters to all involved.

That's what you're really getting for your $20 RRA dues -- a lot of hard work put in by a board of unpaid volunteers who do a great deal to make life a bit easier for Washington's regional reporters.

If you haven't paid your $20 dues for 1998 yet, you can expect a call from one of those hard-working volunteers soon, asking that you pay up.

Given how much RRA does, and plans to do in the future, we hope that you send in your check as soon as you get that call.

Doing so will guarantee that you continue getting your monthly newsletter and that you will be able to attend upcoming events. We plan on meeting with the head of the Bureau of Land Management in May, and we're working with Commerce Secretary William Daley, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and other top federal officials on other potential events in the coming months.

See, there is more here than meets the eye.

Let me rephrase that.

For $20, I think you're getting a great bargain.

Animal waste is topic of briefing with regionals

By Sylvia Smith
Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

The head of Purdue Universityís animal sciences department offered this insight on animal waste:

"The fundamental nature of manure is not toxic. It's the same nutrients we feed our stock and fertilize our fields with and put on our lawns."

Animal waste becomes a public policy issue, Jeff Armstrong said, when it is concentrated.

How to deal with large quantities of animal waste is under discussion in Congress and at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has announced a plan to regulate large livestock farms much like it regulates factories and other waste-producing industries.

To set the stage, the Regional Reporters Association sponsored a briefing session with Armstrong; Deb Atwood, a lobbyist for the National Pork Producers Council; and Joe Rudek, a senior scientist with the North Carolina Environmental Defense Fund.

Armstrong said the three concerns discussed most often are groundwater and surface water contamination; odor and air pollution; and application and distribution of the nutrients in animal waste (as fertilizer).

Rudek said farms that collect a lot of waste in lagoons should be required to enclose them, a suggestion Atwood said was far too expensive.

Atwood said restrictions shouldn't be placed on a technology -- such as lagoons -- but on problems if they exist.

For instance, she said, if seepage is the problem, the problem should be corrected instead of moving to ban lagoons.

Restive Regions

St. Petersburg Times Washington reporter Kati Gazella is headed to the Times' Tampa bureau. She's being replaced by Katherine Pfleger as news assistant at the Washington bureau.

A 1997 graduate of the University of Virginia, Katherine comes from The New Republic, where she has worked as an assistant editor and a reporter for the past several months.

Andrea Foster is the new Washington editor of Chemical Week. In mid-March, she replaced Peter Fairley, the publicationís Washington bureau chief. He has moved to New York and is now Chemical Week's senior editor of technology and environment.

-- Jill Miller,
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinal

Got news? Call Jill Young Miller at (202) 824-8225, or

Governors speak on Internet sales taxes

A regional event on Internet taxation went national March 13 at the National Press Club.

A newsmakers forum organized by RRA and co-sponsored by the National Press Club featured Govs. Roy Romer, D-Colo., and Michael O. Leavitt, R-Utah.

Most of the major networks, national print reporters and even a couple of regional reporters attended the event.

Romer and Leavitt were there to pitch the National Governors' Association perspective on why a congressional proposal to ban Internet taxes would be a catastrophe for state economies. They also offered some proposals of their own for congressional action.

A few days later, the NGA endorsed a new version of an Internet taxation bill authored by Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif. Governors considered that version more friendly to states.

-- Jon Riskind,
Columbus Dispatch

An open letter to RRA members

Did you know that the RRA has a sister organization?

Founded in the early 1990s, the Regional Reporters Educational Foundation is a non-profit, tax-free corporation intended to channel grant money to further the goals of regional reporters in Washington. Unlike the RRA, it has no membership or dues. It is run by a group of volunteers, mostly former RRA members, who work cooperatively with the RRA to develop grant applications for programs for regionals. You are always welcome to call and offer your services if you envision a valuable educational goal for regionals and can devote some time to writing a grant.

In conjunction with the RRA, the RREF's program goals include a broad array of professional development activities, including potentially presenting classes in computer training, offering workshops on writing improvement and maintaining a clip file of regional reporting and job leads.

The RREF sponsored the first writing and reporting workshop for regionals in 1992 with a $1,000 grant from the Freedom Forum, attended by more than 60 regional reporters. That tradition continues to this day in cooperation with the RRA; however, the RREF is no longer needed since grant money is no longer involved.

The RREF also has worked with the National Press Foundation for several years to sponsor RRA members to participate in the NPF's educational programs (see next article).

There are two major challenges facing the RREF. First, the cooperation between the RREF and RRA can only be as effective as the volunteers involved in both organizations. If RRA sees no reason to seek grants, the RREF will not be useful. Looking to the future, the candidates for the upcoming June elections for the RRA and RREF boards and officers are encouraged to maintain good communication between the two organizations.

I think there is a very good reason to keep the RREF alive and vital, and with it, preserve the ability to seek grants and outside funding for regional reporter education i n the future. Regional reporters, many of whom hail from small and mid-sized papers all over the country, are generally lacking in money and resources for training and professional development. If our own companies won't pay $500 for a computer seminar, it's up to our volunteers to design a program that can be made affordable with outside grant money.

Secondly, grant money always will be hard to get - period. Currently, the RREF has over $800 in its account but there is no guarantee it could be quickly or easily replenished. Without a rapid stream of money coming in, there are some who would question the need for RREF to exist at all. I believe that is shortsighted thinking. Preserving the RREF will enable future volunteers to continue striving for the worthy goal of educating regional reporters.

-- Alice Lipowicz
president, Regional Reporters Educational Foundation

Press foundation offers seminar

By Alice Lipowicz
Crain's New York Business

Robert Meyers, president of the National Press Foundation, has invited all RRA members to apply for seminars. These multi-day sessions are free of charge and offer an in-depth look at a variety of current events issues.

RRA members are encouraged to note their RRA membership on their application letter, as it will be a factor in their favor.

For other deadlines and information, please contact the National Press Foundation, 1282 National Press Building, Washington, DC 20045. Phone is (202) 662-7350. E-mail address is

  • May 10-13 - Telecommunications. Topics include regulation, security, international developments, technological advances and privacy. Funded by a grant from MCI.

  • June 14-17 - Homeowners Insurance. The structure, history and future of the homeowners insurance industry with an emphasis on urban areas, disaster coverage and industry trends. Funded by State Farm Insurance Cos.

  • June 21-23 - Multiracial Society. From new standards for the 2000 Census to new groups asserting historic identities, the American landscape is being shaped as never before by the questions of racial and ethnic identity. Sponsors include the Ford Foundation.

  • June - August (dates to be announced) - Urban Public Health. Intensive briefings on the economic and social factors that influence health.

  • August (date to be announced) - Banking. Two-week program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

  • October 4-7 - Washington Financial Institutions - How financial institutions and regulators are dealing with the recent changes in world conditions, financial products and trading technology. Funding from the Investment Company Institute and Nasdaq.

  • October 18-21 - Health Insurance. The structure, history and future of the private health insurance industry, focusing on managed care, state and federal programs and regulation. Funded by Life and Health Insurance Foundation. Held in Philadelphia.

  • December (date to be announced ) - Wharton Business School Writers Seminar. Weeklong program at the University of Pennsylvania business school.


The Center for Responsive Politics, which has an extensive and always useful Website, , has added the Federal Lobbyist Database to its pages.

Most reporters have used this database in the House and Senate document rooms. Those places are still the best way to get the most recent information.

But if you're on deadline and want some quick information on whom your local company uses as a lobbyist and how much they spent last year -- that information is now available online.

The link is:

There you will find a searchable database that you can browse by company, lobbyist or type of interest (aerospace, banking, etc.) If you look up a company, you will get a list of all the lobbying groups that firm retains and how much each earned in every reporting period. The reports are filed twice a year.

If you search by lobbying firm, you will get a list of every company for whom they are currently registered to lobby. You also can search by lobbyist's names.

-- Lolita Baldor,
New Haven Register

March 1998 Regional Reporter

February 1998 Regional Reporter

January 1998 Regional Reporter

December 1997 Regional Reporter

November 1997 Regional Reporter

October 1997 Regional Reporter

September 1997 Regional Reporter

August 1997 Regional Reporter

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