Digging deeper: planning the reporting

This is the hard part: planning the reporting. You’ve got to break your old habits and try something new.

Don’t improvise. Don’t wing it. Prepare for the story by anticipating what research or reporting you need in order to write the story. Start putting those pieces together.

Use Blundell’s questions. By that, I mean read them carefully and decide which questions apply to your story. Some will be obvious.

For example, scope and intensity is a question that applies to a good many stories. How many people are involved? Is this story about something happens to a lot of people or a few people? Does the trend or problem exist in a particular locale? The sickle cell anemia story is such a story. Immediately pull that information together and see if you can go ahead and write it. It won’t be place first in the story. You won’t lead with the data. (Numbers can be numbing.) But you will need this information so go ahead and get it.

Tonight we’ll go through those questions again and see where they apply. Take your copy and highlight or check the ones that apply to your topic. For other questions you have to figure out how to get the answers. Who would provide the answers?

Read as much as possible. For example, Jazzi is interested in climate change. Check out Texas Climate News. 

For Tiarra’s story on a transgendered boy, see if you can find the data. What’s the difference between being gay and being transgendered? How many transgendered people are there? What is the cause or causes? You want to get this vital background right away so it can guide you in your reporting. But be sure to use the profile questions and zero in on that. And use other stories as models. For example, a recent story in New York Magazine.

Same with skin lightening. How big an enterprise is it? How many people are using these products? Where? How exactly does the product work? What does it do? What’s in it? How far back does this technology go? What’s the history?

For Jonah’s story on Katrina, he needs to read what has been written on the Superdome. Use the reporting to fill in the details. Compare the published reporting to the emotional memory. Let each inform the other.

Think in terms of narrative descriptions of characters. There is an example in the Pages column in the handout titled ” Start as late as possible”  I’m giving it out tonight. These narrative passages are a key part of writing. You need to consciously go after the information you need to write them.


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