The Long and Short of It

It was a long story week this week, and now I’m facing a short week with tight deadlines.

I started with one story idea for something in depth, but midway through the week several other things butted in. How the paper comes together is so interesting, because it grows out randomness and circumstance. For the past two weeks there have been dozens of opportunities for photos and stories; all winter I was plagued by too few. The weather warms and the stories come out of the woodwork. And then I’m choosing which one to cover, not trying to uncover something to write about.

This week I had to threaten a Freedom of Information Act request as part of the first story I had in mind. Along the way the details I got from that request fell through the cracks because of everything else going on. The basics made it in the paper, of course, but the real meat didn’t get in. Still, the story was more than 1,000 words, the stated limit for the Reporter.

Then another piece blew the limit out of the water. But when police are running metal detectors over every student in a local school it isn’t easy to distill that down.

Then I had a meeting with representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The story I got out of that was another monster, approaching the 1,000 word limit.

I wish there was some “objective,” easy formula for how a paper comes together, but there isn’t. Decisions have to be made on every level, and some of those decisions come down to logistical restrictions. I’ve got proms, award ceremonies, honor rolls and dedications to photograph, firefighters to interview, councilors to pester and utility spokespeople to call. I’m thrilled when every once in a while a good story comes out with my name attached. I often wonder what this job would be like if there were an office, with colleges and desks and mailboxes. The Reporter is a tag-team effort across miles of fiber-optic cable. The quality of it could undoubtedly improve, but for what it is I’m proud. My editor and I, along with a few other awesome reporters, put two papers together every week. I’ve seen life rafts with more personnel.

This week is short, and I’m going to be cramming like a college freshman to get everything in. I have the Coös Symposium starting tomorrow, and because of the holiday my deadline is Friday. How much news can I pull together in a day and a half? I’ve got a bit going already, but I’m not sure. The big news of the last two weeks will hopefully keep rolling. The budget hearing on Wednesday will likely generate at least one piece, but I’m going to have to search for other stories on limited time. When it’s long it’s long, it seems, and this week it’s short. But at least there is news at all.

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