AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   July/August 2000

Changing Beats   

A long-time police officer joins Knight Ridder's Washington bureau to cover federal law enforcement.

By Lacy Papai

Lenny Savino doesn't see much difference between being a cop and being a reporter. "Both jobs work bad hours for lousy pay," he says. And both provide "box seats for the best show on earth."
Savino, 48, knows this firsthand. After 24 years as a police officer on Long Island, he became a full-time journalist in 1997. Now, Savino is leaving his job with the Osceola County bureau of the Orlando Sentinel to bring his two careers even closer together: He'll be covering federal cops--the FBI, ATF, DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies--for Knight Ridder's Washington bureau.
Kathleen Carroll , the bureau chief, is thrilled to have someone with Savino's experience on the new beat. "Lenny just blew everybody away with his proposal and his ideas," she says. "He is just the perfect person for this beat."
Savino had freelanced for Newsday and the New York Times' Sunday Long Island edition before he began work on a master's in journalism at Columbia University. He kept his police job while attending class two or three days a week, and he graduated second in his class of roughly 300 in 1995.
"Lenny did some incredible narratives in his weekly classwork," says Samuel Freedman , one of Savino's professors at Columbia. "I still hand them out to my classes as examples of great writing."
After graduation, Savino moved to Florida to work for the Sentinel, where he has spent the last two-and-a-half years as a crime reporter. He's covered everything from a vagrant who froze to death trying to ride a whale at Sea World to an elderly couple attacked by an alligator in a homeless camp. "It was so interesting to work here in the underbelly of the tourist district," Savino says. "There was such a wide range of unique, counterintuitive stories to cover."
Carroll says Knight Ridder is expecting the same kind of work out of Savino in the Washington bureau. "It's not like we have a vast churn of press releases from federal law enforcement," she says. "It will be Lenny's job to go out there and break these stories."
Savino is up for the task. "Being a history aficionado, Washington is really the best place to be," he says. "Plus, I'll be working a beat that I understand pretty well."