The time a (really cool) story fell through

It was going to be great.

An immersive experience, a chance to experiment with storytelling, and a workout, to boot.

In fact, I was already sitting watching volleyball practice, dressed in yoga pants and shorts and T-shirt and tank top, outer layers ready to be peeled off for the 105-degree room at Sumits (hot) Yoga. I had painstakingly followed the directions on the yoga website: I hadn’t eaten for several hours, I had been drinking enough water to make me run to the restroom what felt like every ten minutes, and my car was stocked with three towels and a large, partly frozen water bottle.

But as I interviewed Susan Kreklow, the Missouri Director of Volleyball (her husband, Wayne, is the head coach), about why the team started doing hot yoga earlier this year, it slowly became apparent that the team was not going to yoga that night, despite the confirmation I got from the SID. Apparently the team doesn’t have time for hot yoga during the season. Susan and the assistant coaches go sometimes, but practice ran too late to make it this time.

So I didn’t go to hot yoga. I went home, went to the gym a few hours later, put my towels away, and poured my water into a glass. Sigh.

What did I do wrong? I counted on a second-hand source. This is tough not to do in the sports reporting world, because SIDs are the ever-present middleperson (how’s that for political correctness!). But in the future I need to think about the SID more like Wikipedia than the Encyclopedia Britannica: a good resource for finding more resources, but not always a definitive source himself.

Also: guest lecture by Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui lectured in our reporting class Tuesday on how to report breaking news. Even though I never want to report breaking news (terrifying! hello!), her lecture made me almost change my mind. Why? Because the stories she gave as examples — like Enron reporting — were stories where journalism led to change. It mattered. As I question whether journalism is a worthwhile institution, this kind of storytelling inspires me to believe in the highest version of journalism.

But digging beneath all that floofy language, here are some specifics:

One thing Jacqui showed us was The Wall Street Journal’s “stakeholder wheel,” where you draw spokes out from the central news item to identify all possible primary sources. This wheel helps you determine who you absolutely need to talk to. It also gives you ideas for future exploratory stories.

The other reason her lecture attracted me to breaking news reporting was because she made it seem so doable: step by step, reasoned, careful, but fast. Think through what you must know, write it down, run it by your editor, go. I’m still not sure what she meant by “Act quickly and think slowly,” and yeah, I’d be scared the whole time, but her lesson about compartmentalizing your approach made this kind of journalism sound possible for me.

Finally, she said to ASK QUESTIONS. I’m a question-asker anyway, but I gathered that I should think more about all my questions, rather than skipping over them or sticking to stock questions. That’s the only way I’ll get answers.


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