Finding the Story: Part II
Good news! The words ‘Original News Story’ don’t cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up anymore. I get assignments and look forward to them instead of fearing them, I don’t know if it’s a false sense of security or if I might actually be learning how to adapt to this industry.
Not to say there aren’t a few hiccups.
Coming up with stories is easy enough now, when you start to think like a journalist, there are stories everywhere. A harder task might be to weed out the ones which are truly newsworthy, but it’s still slowly becoming a habit. The biggest obstacle — getting people to talk.
The last thing I want to be is that obnoxious stereotype of the journalist who will do anything for a story, leaving ethics and manners at the door. At the same time, no story would ever reach the public if we were scared of approaching potential sources. But there’s a fine line to cross, and I find myself frustrated when I don’t know how to toe it. And I know it’s not right to press an employee of a company with strict media relations rules, but going through the proper channels leads to emails unanswered and voicemails unheard.
The next best strategy is to ‘cold-call’, show up where the story is and try to get an interview there. It works sometimes, I have classmates who’ve had amazing material come out of spontaneous interviews. I was hoping to achieve similar results when I arrived on the UBC campus with some questions for a news story, but all I got was an email address I could try. Not so helpful.
All hope was not lost though — I may not have gotten the quote I thought I wanted, but just by being there, I ran into a student who was able to give me her perspective, one I never thought I’d be able to get. And from her answers, I have an entirely new angle for my story. To this day I can’t believe how lucky I was, if I’d picked a different day, a different campus, I wouldn’t have the story I do.
So maybe that’s the real trick to being a journalist. Find the ethical line, know what story you want to write and also hope you get really, really lucky.