For my last eight working days in June, I put down my camera and became a reporter.
It was the first part of a “cross-training” experiment of sorts, wherein another reporter and I traded jobs for eight days. I’m told there’ll be more cross-training in the future, between other departments, but as far as I know, my part in the experiment is done.
I first started this blog in January 2009 for two classes I was taking at the Missouri School of Journalism: Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism, and Advanced Reporting. One class had me working on weekly assignments to improve my ability to use different lighting for photos. The other had me reporting on state politics out of the Jefferson City statehouse three days a week.
So I’m no stranger to reporting, but it’s also been a few years since I’ve done it on a near-daily basis. If anything, my eight days as a reporter were varied. There were days I was handed a press release and told to make an actual story out of it. There were other days I was given a vague story idea and instructed to turn it around into something meaningful. Sometimes, these leads didn’t work out, but more often than not, I was able to find a story and write about it.
Here, I share the stories I worked on, roughly in the order in which I wrote them:
My first assignment was a hot weather story, but I found out that we weren’t even going through a heat wave, technically. Still, it was hot. Determined not to go to a water park, pool or lake, I went to a baseball game where I found a bronze-skinned umpire just dealing with the heat.
Thanks to modern satellite technology, Jimmy Buffett was to give a concert at about 90 drive-in theaters across the nation. After talking to the local drive-in’s owner on the phone and doing some research, I pre-wrote about half the article before I arrived at the drive-in around 5 p.m., at which point I did some more interviews for color. As activities wound down, I wrote up the rest of the story in the projection room before the concert began, and planned to end the story with some more color from the first song. Then, the satellite signal was disrupted, fans complained and I had to rewrite the whole story.
We received a press release about how the grown children of a train-loving man planned to take his ashes for a ride on a local Civil War-era replica train. For this story, I ended up talking to three of the man’s sons and learned a lot about their father, who had grown up alongside steam engines during the Great Depression and, years later, built a U.S. Navy-commissioned satellite to track the newly launched Sputnik’s path.
A quick-turnaround brief I jimmied up toward the end of my shift… after checking my own bank statement, that is.
Another quick-turnaround brief that happened near the end of my shift.
Yet another quick-turnaround story also resulting from a press release. I tried to liven it up with some detail about one video in my lede.
Interviewing kids is hard. I’ve long known you’ll get better, more genuine quotes from kids if you just follow them as they tour a fire station, and keep the recorder app on your phone rolling. But then you have to make a note at which point a kid said something awesome, or else listen to the whole recording later at the office.
I’ve covered the Senior Games in some capacity every year since I’ve been here. This year was the first I did so as a reporter. But it’s always fun to watch people having a good, competitive time, and this was definitely another instance where I just stayed with folks I’d already interviewed and kept the recorder app rolling.
I was a little nervous about covering the USA-GER World Cup match, even though I was just putting a local spin on it and not actually reporting from Brazil. Thing is, I know pitifully little about soccer. I played it in P.E. in grade school, but the day I blocked a hard pass with my sternum was the day I quit caring about the sport.
Fortunately, at Buffalo Wild Wings, I found a group of visiting Germans who happened to be passing through York on a three-week vacation to the U.S., brought their Deutschland jerseys with them and set up a little American flag on their table. Also fortunately for me, Germans tend to speak very good English. They basically saved my story.
A local blogger tipped us off that her neighbor has been upset and preoccupied by the gift of a $50 from two young girls. So, before I headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for the World Cup, I interviewed Joe Sheetz in his home. Later, I was able to get in touch with the president of the Pay It Forward Foundation, a California-based nonprofit, who gave me some background on the concept of paying it forward.
I wrote that article almost as if it were a column, largely because it was practically a single-source story. Joe was a very sweet man, and I hope he finds the answers he’s looking for, and the end of the story that he’s seeking.
This past week has been my first week back at my own desk, with a camera in my hands. I enjoyed working alongside other editors and journalists in the newsroom, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to tune up my reporting skills. But I’m also glad to be back in the photo department and telling stories the way I love most.