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Bruce Lambert, reporter NYTimes-Getting the story

April 29, 2005 @ 12:00 am EDT


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This morning, Bruce Lambert, lately of the New York Times, came to talk about some of the different ways that peoples’ stories wind up as newspaper stories. It turns out that Bruce is an old-time veteran reporter on the island, having worked for many of the local papers from time to time. He was also the first reporter working on the AIDS story full time for the New York Times. As is the reporter’s role, Bruce brought us some news, that Newsday’s Paul Vitello is moving to the Times.

What is the News?

There is tons of competition for column-inch space in the metro section of the NYT. For Long Island stories to make it into the metro section, they have to be of tri-state regional interest. The Long Island section of the Sunday Times, is obviously more focused on our home, with longer, more focused stories.

How do reporters get stories?

Reporters are bombarded with press releases and phone calls, having to sift through many of them to find items that are newsworthy for that day or week, but sometimes stories find reporters. Bruce recounted the story of the Gertz heiress, Alison Gertz, who was one of the early heterosexual women to contract AIDS when the disease was thought to be confined to the gay male and IV drug using communities. There, Alison’s mother called Bruce and brought him the news that the disease was breaking out of those communities. Alison went on to become an AIDS activist, forming the organization Love Heals, passing away tragically at age 26.

Sometimes personal relationships are sources. An old friend of Bruce’s introduced him to a Private Investigator that turned out to be working on reopening the Marty Tankleff murder case. Personal experience can also suggest stories. Bruce’s experience in newspaper union organizing and negotiations was helpful in doing stories on the arbitration process with county police department contracts.

And sometimes stories are just plain fun. Bruce recounted some stories on Long Island’s fractured geography, oddities that date back to Revolutionary War times.