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Username: Zulu_warrior

Post Number: 2804
Registered: 10-2003
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Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 9:51 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

http://www.civic-strategies.co m/urban_journalism.htm

The 2006 Civic Strategies
Urban Journalism Awards :::

Welcome to the fourth annual Civic Strategies Urban Journalism contest. Our aim is to identify the big-city newspapers doing the best job of covering their regions or telling us something important about cities in general and to name those doing the poorest job. We also point out the most prolific reporters from these newspapers and describe some of the best articles and series.

This is a journalism contest like no other. One reason: We don't ask newspapers to nominate themselves. Rather, we select the daily newspapers that are included. At present, Civic Strategies is tracking 21 newspapers. (To see the list, please click here.)

Another way this is different from other journalism contests: We don't focus on the extraordinary work of these newspapers. By design, we look at their ordinary work, the articles they produce every day. (To learn more about our methodology and why only 21 newspapers are included in our counts, please click here.)

Finally, there's the counting thing. Our way of identifying the newspapers and reporters doing the best job is by counting the number of articles we clip over the course of a year. To our mind, this combines both judgment (which was exercised when we clipped the article, usually because it told us something important about the region) and objectivity (we let the numbers speak for themselves). Certainly, we've been surprised by what we've found, which is that some unexpected newspapers do a great job of covering their regions and some expected ones do a mediocre job. (To view our past reports and get a quick overview of the Civic Strategies contest, please click here.)

OK, so what have we found so far this year? This is the first quarter report on the 2006 Urban Journalism contest. Below you'll find our count of newspapers and reporters (with some analysis in both categories) and a few outstanding articles that have caught our eye so far.

Best Urban Newspapers (as of March 31)

So which newspapers are doing the best job of covering their regions? Here are the five newspapers we clipped most frequently in the first quarter:

New York Times 80
Washington Post 58
Los Angeles Times 52
San Francisco Chronicle 43
San Diego Union-Tribune 40

So far, the motto of the 2006 Urban Journalism contest might be that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Four of the five newspapers above were in the top five at the end of last year. Only the San Francisco Chronicle is new. (It finished in the middle of the pack last year.) No one would be surprised to see any of these newspapers in a list of excellent publications, with the exception of the Union-Tribune. But the San Diego newspaper has been given a great gift in the last few years, a city government that has careened from one disaster (wildfires, corruption scandals) to another (a near-bankrupt government, the resignation of a newly re-elected mayor, a wild special election). But the U-T has also covered these disasters well. Hence, it deserves to be considered one of the best urban newspapers in the country. (Worth noting: the Union-Tribune won its third ever Pulitzer Prize this year for its investigation of a crooked congressman, so its overall reputation may be climbing.)

If these are the best newspapers for urban journalism, which are the worst so far in 2006? Here are the five bringing up the rear:

Baltimore Sun 10
Denver Post 10
Houston Chronicle 10
Minneapolis Star-Tribune 9
St. Louis Post Dispatch 8

Again, more of the same. Only the Post Dispatch is new to the list of laggards (and the Post Dispatch was close in 2005, when it was sixth from the bottom). It makes one wonder: How can the Union-Tribune produce five times as many insightful articles as the Post Dispatch, covering a region roughly the same size? Beats us. It takes an almost determined lack of curiosity to produce a daily newspaper that has so little to say about its city and suburbs.

Best Urban Reporters (as of March 31)

What about the reporters themselves? Who's producing the greatest number of enlightening articles about urban America in 2006? Here's a list of the reporters who've written at least six articles that have ended up in our files so far:

Matthew T. Hall San Diego Union-Tribune 12
David Pendred Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11
Jim Rutenberg New York Times 11
Christopher Heredia San Francisco Chronicle 10
Lisa M. Collins Detroit News 8
Ellen Gedalius Tampa Tribune 8
Mark Holan Tampa Tribune 8
Dave Levinthal Dallas Morning News 7
Noaki Schwartz Miami Herald 7
Winnie Hu New York Times 7
Charlie Goodyear San Francisco Chronicle 7
Steve Hymon Los Angeles Times 6
Marcia Gelbart Philadelphia Inquirer 6
Lori Montgomery Washington Post 6

So far, it's Matthew T. Hall of the San Diego Union-Tribune is ahead by a nose. Hall is covering the chaos at San Diego city hall, which explains his productivity. Jim Rutenberg is a fine political writer at the New York Times, and, of course, there's always lots of politics in New York. But who is David Pendred and why is he among the top three?

Pendred covers development issues for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which may be a unique beat. One of his most notable articles this year was about how developers identify neighborhoods on the verge of gentrification and get there just ahead of the crowd. He also has a big ongoing story to cover: the building of Atlanta's Beltline project. The Beltline is a proposed circular park around the city, to be built on abandoned railroad rights of way, which would offer everything from jogging trails to light rail. But Pendred isn't a one-story writer; he finds other interesting development stories to write about. Memo to newspaper editors elsewhere: Pay attention.

There are two others from the list worth singling out. One is Christopher Heredia of the San Francisco Chronicle, who's covering the dandy mayor's race in Oakland. How dandy is it? Oakland's outgoing mayor is Jerry Brown (former governor, former presidential candidate, former boyfriend of Linda Ronstadt), who's running for state attorney general. One of the candidates looking to succeed him is Ron Dellums, the ultraliberal former congressman. Who could have imagined Oakland would have such lively politics?

And then there's the Tampa Tribune's Mark Holan, who covers the Hillsborough County Commission. (Tampa is part of Hillsborough County.) Normally, county commissions are pretty dull bodies. Not this one. In recent years, the Hillsborough Commission has been turned into a soapbox for extremists. Holan should be busy this year, since several of the seats are up for election and there's an effort afoot to create a mayor system for the county. Reformers hope that, with a mayor in charge, commissioners will less likely to grandstand. (With Hillsborough's luck, though, one of the grandstanders will be elected mayor.)

Urban Journalism Scorecard: To view all the papers and reporters we're tracking in 2006, along with their standings, please click here.

Best Urban Article or Series

This brings us to the final part of our Urban Journalism Awards. In addition to counting clippings in our files, we've kept an eye out for articles or series of articles that we think are outstanding examples of urban journalism. (We also encourage readers to send in nominations.)

Way too early to declare a likely winner for 2006, but here are a few stories that told us something important about cities and did so with intelligence and flair:

The Suburban Solution is a long look at how affordable housing thinking has changed in recent years and how, to a surprising extent, the focus has moved to the suburbs. The article, by Andrew Rice, ran in the New York Times Magazine in March and looked programs in Washington, D.C., and its close-in neighbor, Montgomery County, Md. The link to this excellent article has expired, but if you want to purchase an archive copy you can do so by clicking here.

Getting Nowhere is another magazine article, this time from the Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest Magazine. In it, Richard Seven writes about why public transit is such a tough sell in Seattle and elsewhere. His insight: Choosing how one gets to work is as much about psychology as price. You can find his article, which ran in March, by clicking here.

Mayor's Challenge: Finishing What He Started is a great example of what city hall reporting could be but rarely is. It's an unsparing critique of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's first two years in office by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon, who may be the best city hall reporter in the country. Newsom is rich, well connected and blessed with movie-star looks. He has lots of great ideas and "sky-high approval ratings" among voters. But, as Gordon explains, he also lacks focus and follow-through. You can find her article by clicking here.

Have an article or series you'd like to nominate for Best Article or Series? E-mail the link to info@civic-strategies.com.
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Username: Vic_doucette

Post Number: 267
Registered: 10-2003
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Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 1:13 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Lisa Collins is a great reporter. I really enjoyed the time we worked together at the MT. I enjoyed even more the time we spent together outside of work.

I'm not at all shocked that her work is getting national recognition. She deserves it.

You go, baby!

(Message edited by vic_doucette on May 18, 2006)
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Username: Eric_c

Post Number: 743
Registered: 11-2003
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Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 1:29 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If she gets really good, she'll be able to help out the 'big markets' even more. Wonder how soon she'll be moving?

Of course, I'm being snarky. It would be nice if she'd continue to do her thing here in Detroit where the citizenry actually needs an advocate.
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Username: Soulhawk

Post Number: 272
Registered: 04-2004
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Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 7:19 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Lisa is a great writer and a wonderful person. A well deserved congratulations to Ms. Collins.

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