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Summer 2001

VCU students reveal gifts to legislators
By Jeff C. South
The URL for the package of stories on legislative gifts is: www.people.vcu.edu/~jcsouth/on-the-lege/

In computer-assisted reporting, there’s a tendency to think that bigger is better: that the more records you crunch, the more impact your story will have.

But my Legislative Reporting students at Virginia Commonwealth University dispelled that notion this spring when they created and analyzed a relatively small database: a list of all gifts received last year by state legislators, the governor and other top officials.

Campaign Finance Reporting in Non-Election Year
By Karyn Dest

There is one major problem with writing an article about campaign finance reporting in non-election years: non-election years do not exist anymore.

The frequency of elections is not the only reason campaign finance stories are perpetually viable. The fight for reelection is a thought that never really leaves the politician's mind in this era of fundraising and campaign spending.

Tracking the Campaign Giving Habits of Top Executives
By Richard Dunham

In the hyper-competitive world of presidential campaign reporting, it's a constant challenge to stay ahead of the pack - particularly if you work for a magazine that is published weekly.

But the best way to get noticed, I've discovered as White House and national political correspondent for Business Week, is to create a specialized niche in the overcrowded marketplace of political stories. For me, that's been the political donation habits of America's top CEOs.

Campaign finance goes local
By David Raynor

Since 1988, The N&O has maintained some sort of campaign finance database, tracking contributions to Congressional candidates from NC, statewide candidates such as Governor and Lt. Gov. and, since 1997, General Assembly candidates. It's a Visual Foxpro database. We hire temps to key the data.

In 1999, we began discussing ways to incorporate local campaign races into the "Money Machine", our campaign finance database. The reason was that developers were beginning to spend a lot more money locally because of efforts to slow growth. We wanted to find out just how much they were spending and why.

Great TV: Campaign Finance Stories
By Karyn Dest

The assignment editor turns to you at your morning meeting. You pitch stories about that night’s city council meeting and a local canned food drive. You have one more story idea scribbled on the back page of your notebook, but you are hesitant to pitch it. It is a campaign finance story. The story is complicated and heavy on numbers, a combination you suspect will elicit the death blow response from the assignment editor: “That’s a newspaper story.”

Campaign finance stories are not automatically newspaper stories. In fact, campaign finance data are a great source of visual and engaging stories. And, sometimes, they are even better television stories than newspaper stories because you can show the donors, and the public can see the flaws in the system.

Following the Money in a State Legislature
By Darrel Rowland

Want to read another war story involving multi-variable regression analyses -- and how with weeks of intense study and several graduate degrees even you might be able to climb this learning curve?

Then look elsewhere.

Want to hear how you can use that most basic of CAR animals, Microsoft Excel, in an almost embarrassingly simple way to come up with a fun story that readers will like?

Tracker is published quarterly by the Campaign FInance Information Center,
The Missouri School of Journalism, 138 Neff Annex, Columbia, MO 65211. (573) 882-2042.