EXPOSÉ: America's Investigative Reports
Meet the Reporter

EXPOSÉ: How did you end up at the Idaho Falls Post Register? Describe what your first full-time job in journalism was like.

ZUCKERMAN: The Post Register had a reputation for letting young reports take on big projects, and one of my mentors, Kelly McBride at the Poynter Institute, told me Dean Miller was a great editor. As a rookie, I didn't have many options, so I decided to move to eastern Idaho.

Starting was difficult. My desk was next to the bathroom, and within the first week of work, stinky water oozed through the wall and formed a puddle under my chair. It made me wonder: Was moving to Idaho Falls a good idea? The town probably wasn't the most homophobic place in the world, but sometimes it felt that way. I decided to keep my head low, work hard and learn as much as I could.

Why is it important for journalists to uncover "sealed" cases like this [the civil lawsuits against the Boy Scouts]? What tips would you give to others looking into court cases?

It's all too common for governments to hide information that's in the public's best interest to know about. Courts are no exception. Cases are often sealed so the powerful won't be held accountable.

When digging through court files, get the list of all the court documents that should be in there. If there's a document missing, ask why and ask for the sealing order. If you're pressed for time, ask the lawyers and other people familiar with the case what to keep an eye out for.

When covering courts, talk to everyone. It makes the job more fun, and you never know who will give you a good tip or hand you a useful document.

Can you reflect a little on your experience with the "Scout's Honor" series and the responses you got for writing it? How do you think it has affected you as a journalist?

It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. Sometimes I felt as though I didn't know what I was doing, why I was doing it or whether anyone would care. Other times I felt as though I was doing some of the most important work of my life.

It changed me as a journalist. I used to think reporters aren't part of the story. That's how it should be. It isn't. By just doing your job, some people will love you, some people will hate you, and some people will drag you in and make you part of the news.

[For more on this question, read Zuckerman's essay published in the summer of 2005.]

What brought you to The Oregonian? What kinds of stories do you cover now?

The Oregonian is among the country's best newspapers, and I got an opportunity to work with a great editor. Plus, I love Portland.

I cover the government of one of Oregon's fastest growing and most interesting counties, Clackamas County. The work entails writing about everything from the rescue of starving horses to Oregon's Measure 37 property rights law. I'm also working on a child abuse investigation.

Peter Zuckerman is a reporter at The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon. From November 2003 to August 2005, Zuckerman worked as the cops and courts reporter for the Post Register, a small daily in Idaho Falls, Idaho. For the "Scout's Honor" series published in early 2005, the Post Register received the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Award given for the best journalism in the United States, and Zuckerman received the Livingston Award, an award honoring excellence in journalists younger than 35 years old.

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