Investigative journalism's future

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Dennis Hines | January 22, 2016

BELOIT — Ever since his latest book was published, Beloit author Tom Warren has been on a mission to help find a future for investigative journalism.

Warren said the focus of the book, “Discovering Beloit: Stories Too Good to be True?” is a fictionalized exploration of the decline of investigative journalism in smaller communities such as Beloit.

“Investigative journalism, if not disappearing, is significantly disappearing,” Warren said. One of the reasons is that fewer people subscribe to the newspaper.

Warren, of Beloit, was recognized last month by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism for his support of the organization by donating proceeds from his book to the group.

The Madison-based nonprofit journalism group focuses on investigative reporting and training current and future generations of investigative journalists.

“I think they're a group that's sensitive to the need of investigative journalism,” Warren said. “They're a group I have a lot of respect for. I think they're credible. I think they do good research. I think it's a cause that's worthy of supporting.”

Warren said he became interested in journalism while working for his high school newspaper.

“I had what I felt were excellent journalism teachers,” Warren said. “I've had a little experience in (journalism). I'm certainly not an expert.”

“Discovering Beloit,” published a little over a year ago, took Warren several years to complete.

“It started with two or three unconnected short stories that I then found a way to connect them,” Warren said. “The way I connected them was through this journalism teacher.”

One of those fictionalized stories, fleshed out in the book, sends the Chicago Cubs to Beloit after years of futility.

Warren, who is retired from Beloit College, said the Chicago Cubs coming here is based on what occurs in major league soccer in England, in which the last-place teams are relegated to the minor leagues. He said he developed that idea for his book before last year when the Cubs made it to the playoffs.

“I developed the theme that Major League Baseball is thinking about doing what major league soccer in England does,” Warren said. “The Cubs fall from grace and they're looking around and they find Beloit as a place to play because they're no longer welcome to Chicago. In Beloit, they have a lot of success.”

In the book, a former journalist who teaches at “Turtle Creek Charter School” encourages his students to become investigative journalists in their community to uncover similar interesting stories.

“These stories could be true or they could be too good to be true. That's up to the reader to decide,” Warren said. “One thing that is important is that Beloit is a great place to live that sometimes gets stereotyped by other Wisconsin communities, so I want to tell some good stories about Beloit.”

Besides “Discovering Beloit,” Warren has written two other books, “An Old Caddie Looks Back: Reflections From a Town that Loves Golf” and “Discovering Lake Superior and the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

“An Old Caddie” is based on events that Warren experienced while living in Rockford, and “Discovering Lake Superior” is about his experiences at his family's cabin near Ontonagon, Michigan.

“These are three places that I have lived for a long time,” Warren said. “I grew up in Rockford. My family has had a cabin at Lake Superior for several years. I've lived in Beloit for 45 years. So, those are places I've lived, and those are three books I have written. ... I write about places where I've lived for a long time. It's one way of not losing those experiences. I'm able to reflect back.”

Warren donates the proceeds from his other two books to local organizations, as well.

“I don't retain money on any of these books,” he said. “I donate money from the proceeds of all of them.”

Warren currently is working on his fourth book, about a young clergyman who comes to a new town and faces the challenges of his ministry and trying to learn golf.

“He's got two challenges. One is kind of whimsical and the other one is a little more serious,” Warren said. “I'm tentatively calling that one 'The Leader,' but I may change the name.”

Warren began writing books after retiring from Beloit College in 2001 as an education and youth studies teacher.

“Of the three that I've worked on, so far, two of them are nonfiction and one of them is fiction,” Warren said. “In each case, I've learned a lot. The reader might learn something. I definitely learn something. Being actively involved in writing can be a wonderful education, so I thoroughly enjoy having it be a part of my retirement. I meet new people and I get involved in projects that I wouldn't of. I really like writing.”

The book can be purchased at Barnes & Nobles, Turtle Creek Bookstore, the Visit Beloit office and Amazon.com.

For more information about Warren go to Thomasfranklinwarren.com.

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