Paul LaRoccoInvestigative ReporterPaul.LaRocco@newsday.com
To say that I’ve always wanted to be a local news reporter, holding powerful people and institutions to account, would be perfect for a story like this. But it wouldn’t be true.
As a teen, my interest in journalism was motivated by a desire to find a career that would pay me to watch baseball. I grew up reading Newsday — but only the sports section. I once made a scrapbook of a Yankees’ season using the paper’s box scores and headlines. I edited the sports section of my college paper.
But when I began mailing resumes to newspaper sports editors, I had no luck. Until one of them passed my material to his counterpart in the metro section, where reporters covered late night town council meetings, scoured early morning police blotters and spent the time in between hearing the often-conflicting concerns of business and civic leaders; average parents and taxpayers.
It has now been 20 years since I took that first job writing about local communities. For the last 12 years, I’ve done that work for Newsday, my hometown paper. I now have the privilege of being an investigative reporter, sometimes devoting many months to the same topic. My colleagues and I exposed corporate deceit and government failure that led to Long Island’s biggest environmental crisis; pierced the secrecy around how police departments police themselves and, most recently, uncovered the unorthodox and potentially improper ways that the campaign of controversial Rep. George Santos spent money.
But I still try to think of each story as I did when it had to be produced in an hour or two on deadline: Am I writing about something that a reader would want to know, would need to know or, most importantly, would not have known otherwise?
I never was paid to watch baseball, but I’m fortunate that I get to answer those questions each day — as a local news reporter.