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Fractured Framework series launch
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News organizations across U.S. launch 'Fractured Framework' national reporting project

The first installment in the new AP/APME national reporting project launched Sunday, Feb. 22, with national and local stories appearing on websites and front pages across the country.

"It was impressive to see the collective journalistic muscle of so many news organizations being used to lift up something so important to the future of the country," said Alan Miller, 2015 president of APME and managing editor/news at The Columbus Dispatch. "Without special attention to the nation's infrastructure -- and the lack of funding to maintain it -- our roads, bridges and other critical components of the foundations of commerce and society will crumble."

We began this occasional series with a hard look at roads and bridges because everyone wants good roads, but no one wants to pay for them.

In fact, that sentiment, expressed in a post on a Georgia caterer's Facebook status update one day last fall, led APME to propose infrastructure as a topic for national reporting.

APME and the Associated Press had been looking for a new project. The two groups have teamed up in the past for national reports on topics such as "Broken Budgets," on the effects of dwindling state finances during the recession, and "Aging America," our look at the impact aging baby boomers are having on society.

The plan with Fractured Framework is to do quarterly reports, each examining a different aspect of our nation's crumbling infrastructure — including vital components such as communication systems, water and sewer lines, the electricity grid, pipelines and rail lines. This project touches virtually everyone on many levels.

The project is being led by Tom Verdin, AP’s State Government Team Editor, and Tom Koetting, an APME board member and deputy managing editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Special thanks to Brian Carovillano, the AP managing editor for U.S. News in New York, and the top editors at the Associated Press -- Kathleen Carroll, senior vice president and executive editor, and Mike Oreskes, vice president and managing editor -- for their support of the project.

Key to making the launch a success, said Miller, was the planning and collaboration. Verdin and his team compiled a national database of information about conditions of and funding for highway and bridge projects.  AP reporter David Lieb wrote the national story, which was available to all AP members, and AP also shared the data with all members so they could do a local analysis and story. 

AP hosted a conference call to allow members to ask questions about the project in general and the data specifically, as well as make suggestions about how to enhance the project.

"We learned a lot from past projects, and one important lesson was the need to include as many members as possible in the planning and collaboration," Miller said. "The results were seen in the impressive collection of stories that appeared across the nation on Sunday."

With one installment of Fractured Framework under our belts, AP and APME soon will be working on plans for the next installment.

Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

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