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Enterprise story help

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Trey Beamon, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. Trey Beamon

    Trey Beamon Active Member

    I'm working on a Sunday enterprise piece, due at month's end, on athletes and eating disorders.

    There's a good starting point here. A local athlete, who battled through the illness and is now thriving in college, has agreed to talk. I've also got interviews lined up with a prep wrestling coach -- an excellent quote, BTW -- and a gymnastics instructor in town.

    But that's it. I've never tackled an issue like this before, and am a little unsure who to contact next. A local physician? Someone that's written a book on the subject? Tracey Gold? :D

    Any assistance, on finding possible interview subjects or anything else enterprise-related, is greatly appreciated.
  2. expendable

    expendable Well-Known Member

    I'd include at least one opinion from someone with a medical background.
  3. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    When you talk to the athlete, find out if she went to any support groups for help. People may not want to talk on the record, but a counselor may be a good source to talk to about recovery and what's out there for people with an eating disorder. And for the hell of it, ask the counselor if someone in their group wants to talk -- using a pseudonym, if absolutely necessary. In college I did a story for a class on casinos or gambling or some such, called the local chapter of Gambler's Anonymous and was able to talk to a recovering addict. There are people out there who will talk.
    I'd also agree that someone with a medical background is a must. A local physician, perhaps, or a professor at State U. who has done a lot of research on the subject would work nicely.
  4. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    My suggestion would be to find a counselor, administrator and/or doctor or nurse -- and if you're lucky, a patient or two, as well -- who is either currently, or recently past, being treated in an actual eating-disorders center or half-way house in your area, or as near-by as possible. (Or, barring that, someplace with a national reputation).

    And if one place turns you away because of privacy issues, try another.

    Some places have officials/doctors/patients who are either willing to talk themselves, or are willing to put you in touch with someone who is. Others don't, and will stick to their guns no matter what. It depends on the place's policies, and general level of openness, cooperation and desire to confront/address the problem in whatever way possible (even more public, media-friendly ones, which they see as having the potential to benefit more people than just those currently in treatment. And they're fine with that, even may want and seek it, to some extent.

    As previously suggested, you may have to grant some level of anonymity, or, at the very least, agree to have patients call you, and not the other way around. But maybe not, especially if you can get someone already out of treatment (preferably recently) who is no longer an actively in-crisis patient (this is an important factor in the likelihood you would be allowed access).

    Also as previously suggested, perhaps you could be put in touch with someone in one of the place's support/follow-up groups or programs.

    One thing to check on: The place might even have a group (or other contact format) specifically for athletes with eating disorders, or, another, closely-related condition known as exercise addiction.

    The latter is a real diagnosis, with similar problems and personality characteristics common to people with eating disorders, and these people might give you more fodder, or, could potentially lead you to people with the more classic disorders. Maybe one of them will be another local, even.

    You might also try to get/find a contact and/or phone number for a well-known, big-time athlete who has struggled with an eating disorder -- there have been a few, particularly among swimmers, divers, gymnasts and runners -- either recently, or in the past. Anything would help, and that would really lend some name recognition and legitimacy to the issue, and your story. And, certainly, they could relate to the local athlete around whom you're centering your story.

    And check with the National Eating Disorders Assn. and the National Institute of Mental Health, too. Someone in those organizations would certainly have something to say, and they might give you more leads, direction, and, of course, facts/numbers/trends, too.

    Good luck. It's a tough but important and compelling subject, one that, as you can probably tell, is close to my heart.
  5. Screwball

    Screwball Member

    Read Joan Ryan's "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes."
  6. pseudo

    pseudo Well-Known Member

    For the medical side, have you thought about giving DocTalk a call?
  7. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    I would seek medical personnel and counselors, but I would really focus heavily on the local athlete, the human interest angle. I would also find out what sort of programs and studies the NCAA and national federation of state high school activities associations, along with your state's association, have in place. That could be fodder for a sidebar or breakout box, along with info about where to go for help, signs of the disease, etc.
  8. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I don't know if this will help or not, but perhaps look into what happened to Karen Carpenter.

    She may not have been an athlete, but IMO, her situation really started the ball rolling when it comes to talking about eating disorders.

    Bear in mind this comes from someone who's not a doctor, so DocTalk will be a better source by far. Remember that there are (at least) two different types of eating disorders: Anorexia nervosa and bulimia. If I remember correctly, anorexia nervosa causes you to starve yourself in an effort to lose those pounds that you think make you look fat. That cycle keeps going beyond the time when you actually reach an ideal weight. As for bulimia, if I'm not mistaken, that's characterized by binging (although gorging might be a more apt word) and purging. The show Diff'rent Strokes had an episode where Kimberly Drummond (played by the late Dana Plato) suffered from bulimia. I can remember a scene where she gorged on cake one minute and we found out later she vomited it back up.

    Do your own research to provide some background, but don't let your own research substitute for a medical opinion.
  9. EE94

    EE94 Guest

    I'm sorry, but this made me howl.

    and who is this "we" you speak of?
  10. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    Glad I fucking amused you. ;)

    "We" meaning those who watched the show. Myself included.
  11. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    I'll back up forever_town, and admit it: I saw that episode, and I know just watcha talkin' about. :)
  12. EE94

    EE94 Guest

    I might, under duress, admit I watched more than a few episodes of the classic series, but I would never cite it as a research source, at least without corroborating it with some Growing Pains scripts.
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