Monthly Archives: October 2012

Tagging along

 

I go to Ragtag Cinema a few times a week either to catch a pretentious indie film or gorge on a BLT at Uprise, so it was nice to finally have an excuse to go there for an article. I wrote on Ragtag’s transition from analog to digital projectors, a shift that’s happening across the country. What could’ve been a dull story comparing celluloid to pixels came alive when I interviewed the cinema’s main projectionist, Steve. With his coke-bottle glasses and emotional connection to the projectors, he was the perfect person to center my story around. Sometimes the people you interview are more than just sources, but characters. This is one of my favorite stories I’ve done so far.

Hurricane Hype?

Based on the media frenzy over Frankenstorm, I can never really tell if East Coast storms are really something to worry about or if it’s just neurotic New Yorkers overtweeting. However, the storm is the biggest news here too, even if it thousands of miles away. So I spent my Sunday G.A. shift trawling through Twitter looking for the best Hurricane Sandy links. If your instagram is going to hail with photos of ominous clouds, might as well make something out of it.

3-2-1 POLO!

My women bike polo players story is finally online! Even though I still don’t want to mount a bike, this has been one of my favorite stories that I’ve done.

[A photo I took at a polo practice I attended.]

“Accuracy check within an inch of your life.”

Not every press release that comes through your editor’s inbox during a GA shift is created equal.

Case in point, last Friday when one came in about a new hire for the UM Press.

The UM Press has been one of the most complicated stories of the summer, in both the university and the newsroom. When you click through the controversy on the Missourian website, you will be greeted with “corrections” before you even make it to the actual articles. What happened during the accuracy check?

One thing was for sure, no one was going to ask that question of my article, hence the titular quote from Liz.

One of the easiest ways to ensure your accuracy check really does check all of the boxes is to do it by email. With emailed accuracy checks, your source can not only verify you spelled their name correctly and quoted them accurately, but can see the context of you used this information. It can be convenient when you can’t get someone on the phone but a life saver when you know the story you’re working deserves extra prudence. The emailed AC only turned up one error which I promptly fixed.

You’ll notice the story is error free.

 

 

It’s in the details

It’s never a good thing when my editor says to me, “Except for this one part, I can’t tell if you’ve ever left the newsroom.” What he means by that is he wants more reporting, more observation, more evidence that I saw it with my own eyes and if I describe it well enough, my reader can see it too. Despite how my editor’s advice is never wrong, it can be hard to contextualize sometimes. Then I read the latest installment of Dan Barry’s amazing NYT series “This Land”– about a struggling diner in Ohio that is a microcosm of depressed Elyria town it’s in- and saw exactly why my editor values quality observation.

“She wears her blond hair in a ponytail and frames her hazel eyes with black-rimmed glasses that tend to get smudged with grill grease. She sees the world through the blur of her work.”

[A simple observation leads to a very poetic metaphor.]

“It is a short walk from the sleek new courthouse, where the Judge, a regular customer (grilled chicken, cottage cheese, fruit), ruminates in his chambers with an unlit cigar in his mouth and a portrait of Che Guevara on his wall.”

[These regular orders pepper the story, the mark of a detail oriented writer who knows that what someone’s “usual”  is conveys a lot about their character.]

“When the diner’s door is open, Donna can hear the aching thrum of another one of the Norfolk Southern freight trains that clatter day and night through the city. Bound for Cleveland or Chicago with endless containers of goods made across the country and overseas, they slice through Elyria, once more prominent as a maker of things.

The familiar freight-train siren can conjure memories of the writer Sherwood Anderson, who once ran a mail-order and paint business down by the railroad line. One Thanksgiving Day, he said goodbye to his secretary, walked out the door and followed the tracks east, out of Elyria. A breakdown, apparently, one that led to his fictional classic “Winesburg, Ohio,” whose inhabitants, including some with distinctly Elyrian traits, ache for fulfillment.”

[This observation helps to put Elyria in a larger context, historically and currently. Also, Winesburg, Ohio is one of my favorite books.]

Bonus: This story is also a wonderful multimedia interactive feature. Sometimes I think reporters are worried presenting a story via multimedia will deter people from reading the actual article, but if anything, this pulled me in more.

In their natural habitat

This week I interviewed a projectionist at Ragtag Cinema. When I sat down with him in Uprise Bakery to begin the interview, there seemed to be a barrier between us that was larger than his thick as fishbowl glasses. He would trail off or say he didn’t really have an opinion on what I was asking. It wasn’t that I was asking the wrong questions, but that I was asking them in the wrong setting.

This man is a projectionist, more accustomed to the whir of the film reel threading into the projector than the clinking of cups and conversation in a hipster cafe. Once I asked him to show me around the projection booth, the conversation moved faster than a film reel. Just pointing to the equipment and asking him what it did got him answering the questions I was scraping for downstairs earlier and even more.  If you’re interviewing someone about their work life, talk to them in their environment, whether it be a studio, office or projection booth. Not only will you get to see just what your interviewee is discussing but you’ll make them feel comfortable and more ready to talk.

Bonus tip: your photographer isn’t just there to tell you that you’re in the way of his shot, he can ask some good questions too. My photographer asked the projectionist to demonstrate how he would thread a film, which led to some of the best photos for him and a better understanding of the process for me.

Roads to confusion

On this week’s GA shift I wrote a brief about FastCAT detours and learned the AP style for street names the hard way. Sorry to the ACE on duty!