By Chris Adams
For reporters covering America’s infrastructure, the beat involves old and new – from low-tech trains filled with crude oil to high-tech driverless cars.
In a session with NPF’s Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellowship, three reporters discussed their strategies for covering the beat, which they noted touches on readers’ everyday lives.
Curtis Tate, a reporter with the McClatchy Washington Bureau, detailed a series of stories on the safety problems that come with the increasing reliance on trains to carry oil across the country. Tate, a former Paul Miller fellow, won NPF’s Feddie Award in 2015 for his stories.
One key resource was the federal Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, which has a searchable database to zero in on accidents by location, mode of transportation, and material being transported.
Blake Sobczak, a reporter with EnergyWire and also a previous Paul Miller fellow, described how reporters should see the cyber world and the energy grid as vital components of the nation’s infrastructure. He writes about the energy grid and threats to it, and said one of the best ways to learn the basics is from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout in the United States and Canada – an event that took down power for several states in the Northeast. His other tips (compiled here) describe the roles that the Department of Energy, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and other key agencies play in monitoring and protecting the electric grid.
Keith Laing, a Washington correspondent for The Detroit News, also talked about the future – including how the U.S. will need to get a handle on new technologies, such as driverless cars, and how Congress is reacting to them.