Sometimes It Just Happens

I was working on a story today about the Saco River, a story that I’d been trying for several days to pull together, and then this evening it just happened.

The gist of the story is this: a landowner on one side of the river wants to build protection systems into his embankment because he is losing land to erosion, but the landowner downstream is concerned that will push the erosion problem onto his property. The first landowner discovered the problem after a landowner upstream from them did just what they are now proposing to do. This is a simplified version, but you get the idea — every individual wants to protect their property, and as a result everyone else has to protect theirs.

About half an hour before deadline, with nothing really yet on paper, the story exploded. First I got a call from the head of a local conservation commission, who I’d been waiting to hear from for two days. Then I got a call from a longtime selectman and state rep. Then the Attorney General’s office sent out a press release about a $66,000 penalty for someone local who went ahead and protected his property without getting the proper permits. Then an attorney in that case called to explain their side of things.

All the sudden there was more of a story sitting in my lap then I had time to process. My deadline was blown, but my story was in my lap. It’s amazing how two days worth of work can flip in a moment from connecting the dots to holding back the floodgates. I still have a few calls to make to get the whole thing on paper (so to speak), but regardless it’s cool to know everything converged. Sometimes, I guess, it just happens.

Pitching Like Crazy

So I have a day job, but in the modern media environment I would feel remiss if I wasn’t pitching all the time too. A steady job is the surest way to lure yourself into obsolescence, I’m sure of it, so I always have a story or two headed to NHPR or somewhere else.

Lately, however, I’ve been trying to pitch elsewhere, and to some big names. I’ve sent a few things into the New York Times over the years, never with success, but I’m trying a little harder lately. I’ve also been talking with an editor at the Boston Globe, which at least has some regional connection. I also had a brief chat with NPR, for whom I’ve done production work but not done stories. I’ve also got something lined up for PRI’s The World, so hopefully that’ll go.

It sucks to get told no, or to hear nothing back at all, but I figure the only way to get in there is to pepper them with stories until one lands on an editor’s desk they can’t refuse. I’ve got a few good ones out right now, and when I get shut down by one person I turn around, tweak it and send it on to someone else.

I’ve already got tickets to California for a story I’m determined to sell, so that one better land somewhere. I’m also arranging to go to Peru for another, so that one better not strike out either. But no matter what, I’m a veritable pitching machine. If you get an email from me don’t be surprised if the subject line says, “Article Query.”