Reporting

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My first breaking news article for The Washington Post, I got this tip from working sources on an entirely different beat. After pitching the story to general assignment and working with a contract reporter, I managed to lead the reporting process from start to finish and break the story before any local or national outlet could.

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One of the reasons I was excited and honored to be named the 2019–20 Invesitgative Reporting Workshop graduate reporting fellow was the strong partnership the nonprofit newsroom had established and fostered. This yearlong investigation The Fresno Bee published in partnership with the IRW uncovered a deepening division of clean water access for poor people of color in California's San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere in the Golden State.

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As part of my ongoing practicum studies at The Washington Post  — and a relationship I fostered with the General Assignment desk there — I have joined a team of incredible reporters telling the unique stories of people the region has lost as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This ongoing series marks the local tragedies and brings a human element to the numbers we've all grown used to seeing and reading about in the news.

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There's no better time to be studying investigative reporting in Washington, D.C., than amid an impeachment fight that roiled almost all the levels of government. American University's School of Communication gave me incredible access to Capitol Hill, where I reported on the ongoing impeachment drama.

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Part of living and working in the nation's capital means coming to grips with the violence that plagues many parts of it. What made this story for TheWash.org different was how violence had impacted a part of D.C. not so used to it — and how the residents who lived there had taken it upon themselves to do something about it.

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An early assignment of mine at the Investigative Reporting Workshop was to highlight an embargoed Pew Research Center report on trust as a part of the American lexicon. Why is trust important? It's a basic building block, experts allege, upon which citizens place their lives in the hands of public officials and organizations — those same people and organizations that so often become the focus of powerful investigative reporting.

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When a chilling discovery thrust the quality of a public utility's drinking water supply into question, it became clear that fair and accurate coverage required more than just one story. I wanted to include these two stories among my writing samples for two reasons, however: Not only do they represent a long series, but they illustrate how that coverage can sometimes become the story, no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

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I would venture that event coverage or advances don't often make a reporter's writing-sample cut. This is a rare exception. When a source approached me about getting something in the newspaper's calendar section about some upcoming housing events, I took a mundane tip one step further. After all, there is almost always a deeper story to tell.

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Stories sometimes come together for an investigative reporter piece-by-piece. Operating on a tip from a confidential source, this one left me determining what kinds of negotiations were taking place between a local nonprofit and a venue management company and just how much control that company may ultimately have.

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Once open records request documents revealed that the city was negotiating a deal with a local museum that would move from its historic location, it was critical that I frame that story in the proper context: part of a larger effort to lower city subsidies and liquidate real estate.

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Stories that matter are rarely ever told in just one edition. This is one part of an award-winning series I wrote and produced via the "Inquire" podcast about an effort by the city of Owensboro to avoid lawsuits regarding general access to food trucks downtown while keeping promises officials had made to restaurant owners there.

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Sometimes, the true depth of a story doesn't become apparent until the research and fact-checking stages of the reporting process. This story came to my attention when a county clerk handed me a document he had received via email from state regulators. Upon investigating its authenticity, a complex web of controversy with many, distinct sides came to my attention.

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Especially in the weeks and months after the 2016 presidential election, the future of Barack Obama-era legislative victories, namely the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, were thrown into question. It's difficult for readers to truly understand the impact of complex stories like that unless they are presented at the most local of perspectives.

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When you immerse yourself in rural western Kentucky, it's hard to ignore the impact the coal industry has on people's lives. Severance taxes drive public spending and the job market buys groceries at the corner stores.  

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On the western edge of one of the country's largest national recreation areas, Murray has its fair share of Land Between the Lakes news. When an age-old power dynamic between parks officials and former residents sparked over logging rights, I wanted to the chance to put environmental news in a more palatable perspective.

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Working with a talented team of professional radio producers, this documentary explores the places, people and power that is the western Kentucky coal industry. Set apart from the perhaps more illustrious eastern mountainous coal fields, coal miners and coal companies have reshaped economies from deep underground.

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Kentucky's court-appointed special advocates play a critical, behind-the-scenes role in ensuring children don't fall into the cyclical trap of an overloaded family court system. They often work tirelessly and entirely on their own time for the benefit of the lost and forgotten children.

© 2020 by Austin R. Ramsey