Magazine article Nieman Reports

U.S. and International Coverage

Magazine article Nieman Reports

U.S. and International Coverage

Article excerpt

Water is the essence of life, and its cleanliness, availability, and our use and abuse of it are stories meriting reporters' and editors' attention. Yet as Smart Leavenworth, who covered water issues for The Sacramento Bee and describes the wide array of issues he took on, reports: "To my chagrin, I had the beat largely to myself for four years. Across the country, papers have tackled problems of water pollution and degradation, but have overlooked fundamental issues of supply--and sustainability. This is curious."

Seth Hettena, who covers water for The Associated Press in San Diego, writes about "this remarkable beat" and explains that "the story of water in the West has a natural tension that makes it easy to write." Photographer John Trotter chronicles the slow death of the Colorado River Delta and the effect this has on the native Cucapa tribe who rely on this water, but with the delta's demise can no longer be self-sustaining. With the rain-deprived San Joaquin Valley's farmland as his backdrop, Mark Grossi, the environment and natural resources reporter for The Fresno Bee, connects readers to farmers' vital sources of water, which he describes as being a prized commodity "... like gold. It's something to be stored, obsessed over and litigated.... " Using aerial photography, David Maisel shows what Owens Lake looks like with its water diverted to Los Angeles and a system of shallow flooding controlling pollution from windblown dust.

When Scott Streater was environmental reporter with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, he followed a tip through a year and a half of "intense research" to produce a three-day series about how the public's drinking water became polluted with radium. D'Vera Cohn, a metro reporter with The Washington Post, explains why in the past year her newspaper published more than 100 stories about the water utility's refusal to tell customers about the unhealthy, lead-contaminated drinking water or act quickly to fix the problem. From KDFW in Dallas, Paul Adrian, investigative reporter with the local Fox-owned and operated affiliate, writes about catching on video city agencies violating their own regulations and polluting the city's river: "What we found is that the quality of regulation depended highly on the identity of the polluter."

Environmental reporter Eric Staats writes about how sightings of "black water" by Gulf of Mexico fisherman led the Naples (Fla.) Daily News on an 18-month search for answers about "how coastal population growth and industry are destroying wetlands, polluting rivers, injuring marine life, and sickening people." At The Boston Globe, Beth Daley reported a four-part series about ocean fishing: "Without having a person, regulatory agency or group at fault, it was difficult to find a conventional organizing mechanism for all of our reporting," she says.

At the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado, water gets attention. From the city desk, Jerd Smith tackles the water beat in this drought-stricken area where no central regulating agency oversees water's use. "The beat is shrouded in arcane procedures, measurement conundrums, unanswered legal questions and, of course, closely guarded meetings," she writes. …

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