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Getting Involved in Your Story

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mayfly, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. Faithless

    Faithless Member

    Another way to do this ... Use the print product to report on the story, then use your blog to give the first-person side of the story (how the story came about, your interaction with the subject, etc.)

    I tried to inject myself into a story on two very hot local college girls preparing for the state pageant, only to wind up masturbating.
  2. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    These stories can work, but it's kind of like walking a tight rope over the Grand Canyon.

    If done right, these stories can by magnificent.
    If done wrong, it's an out-and-out disaster.

    And the line between one or the other isn't very thick.
  3. silentbob

    silentbob Member

    "Why does the reader care what I did?"

    Why does a friend listen to your stories? Why do people at sportsjournalist.com read your anonymous posts?

    Because people want to know about other people. If you write about coaching your son's baseball team, people want to know about your experience and compare it with their own. If you write about fishing in the Florida Keys, people want to know what that's like. If your write about your mortgage, people will read it for no other reason than to think "HA! I got a better loan than that guy."

    This is one of the out-dated "rules" in journalism. Yes, it can be overdone. Yes, it can be done poorly (as if game stories and features cannot.) But I've worked at four newspapers in my life and the only first-person bickering I've heard is from ... people in the same newsroom. Never has a reader called, email, written, sent a pigeon with a note, saying anything along the lines of "Why do I care about your life?"

    If you don't believe me, ask the people who have written first-persons. I bet 9 times out of 10, they'll tell you they got more feedback from that column/story than anything else.
  4. CentralIllinoisan

    CentralIllinoisan Active Member

    I did this a couple of years ago and learned some things in the process. I aimed to take part in our area's top high school football team's two-a-days for the first three days.

    I lasted one.

    It was hard; I was old and fat and tired -- and after one column -- was sick of writing about myself. The next two days I did seperate pieces on the coaching staff and one on the players, the first delving into the coaching staff's methods and those methods' place in the program's success; the second piece on the tradition shrouding the program and these players' place in it.

    I will say, without taking the stab and mixing it up with the players on Day 1, I don't get the stuff I do in Days 2 and 3. All in all, a good experience. If you wish, the column from the first day is below.


    Five-thirty came early Wednesday morning.

    The knots in my stomach made me sick. I hadn't got much sleep the night before, worrying if I could handle what was ahead.

    Football season. Conditioning. Hard work.

    Thousands of kids across Illinois were out there Wednesday, hurting, sweating (with the temperature in the 60s, maybe not) - all for the good of the home team. About 120 of those players were on the practice fields at Metamora. From freshman to varsity, I was there with them.

    I am certainly not a football player, but I play one in the newspaper.

    I had to be at Metamora High School by 7:45 a.m., dressed and ready to work. The thought of spending the day as part of one of the state's most decorated programs - conditioning, working, trying to be part of the team - made my insides hurt.

    After about five hours of practice, not only my insides hurt. My back hurt. My knees hurt. My feet hurt. I hurt. A few hours on the practice field made my 26 years of life feel like 56. I quickly was reminded why I quit football late my freshman year at Limestone. This is hard. One could say part of the reason I came to work out with Metamora was to exorcise some football demons.

    Well, if they weren't exorcised, they certainly were exercised.


    I thought I had grown up so much since graduating high school in 1996. Grown up so much since graduating from Illinois State University in 2001. Grown up so much since getting married the following year.

    I was wrong. While I thought I'd be headstrong at practice, I slipped back into what felt like the old high school hierarchy. I didn't feel like I should be on the field. I was out of place. Most other players were dressed in black shorts, black shoes. There I was, a 6-foot-1 sore thumb, dressed in red shorts and red and white shoes. Nice. Way to be the chameleon.

    And if I hadn't already stuck out enough, early during the first condition session of the first practice, I felt something in my left shoe. A small plastic piece on the inside my cleats -- which I thought I'd broken in -- dug into my back heel. The blister that formed broke and began to bleed. Nothing like a blister minutes into practice to remind myself of why I chose to write about this stuff and not do it. I jogged to the parking lot and changed into tennis shoes.

    All in all, the first practice provided a tremendous workout for both the mind and body. After the opening conditioning, I was filed in with the sophomore running backs, and the players and I settled down to learn some plays. Despite not having the slightest clue about what language sophomore coach Curt Ryan was speaking (footballese?), I stepped in for a few plays.

    Just what is 44 or 46 or Oregon or Iowa? And where was this second level to which Curt Ryan kept referring? I don't know about the players, but I already had descended there when my eyes glazed over. This was too much. But it also was too much fun. I played a left wing back, carrying out fakes in what has become a classic Redbirds three-back formation.

    I played wide receiver, catching just one pass thrown my way.


    All in all, the day was extremely demanding. These days are reviled by the uninitiated (me) and crucial for the true football players (these kids). I had visions of two-hour sprints and non-stop conditioning, so when I finished I thought: This could have been harder. Should it have been?

    Not really.

    While I got by letting offensive verbiage sail over my head, the kids out there could not. They got a workout for the entire body - even above the shoulders. What I did Wednesday is like joining a construction crew as it installs drywall in a new house. Sure, the work is hard, but I wasn't there for the pouring of the foundation; I wasn't there for the wiring or plumbing; I didn't help put on the roof.

    Most of these kids have conditioned all summer and came into Wednesday in great shape. Some had been working out since before their families served Thanksgiving dinner last year. They all certainly were in better shape than the guy in the white No. 14 practice jersey from the local newspaper, standing around and getting in the way.

    If two practices are any indication, there's no magic formula to Metamora's success. It's hard work. It's dedication.

    "We don't have any secrets," coach Pat Ryan said. "And I can't really explain it. We're just doing what we've always been doing."

    Over the next two days I'll try explain what Ryan couldn't in a few words. I've explored the workouts. Next, I'll explore the coaching, then the players. Not sure if I'll succeed in my mission, but I'll observe and report.

    I'll work hard. I'll be dedicated. Well, maybe I did fit in more than I first believed.
  5. GuessWho

    GuessWho Active Member

    When David Whitley was in San Antonio, he dressed up as the Coyote mascot for a Spurs game and wrote a damn entertaining story about it (obligatory no I'm not him). Gotta be real careful with these things, but when done well they can be worth it.
  6. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    Since being at my new job, I wrote a story about the pressures of playing in tournament golf. I played in the state amateur qualifier and wrote a story I thought came out pretty good.
    So far, lots of good words from readers on it, even from outside the area.
  7. I've likewise found the only people who tend to ask "who the f-- wants to read about you?" are bitter old farts in the newsroom, the type who feel compelled to do things certain ways because that's how they did it in 1954.
  8. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    This can be true in certain circumstances. But you better damn well make sure your story is interesting.

    Nothing worse than being stuck in your neighbor's living room, watching slides of his boring-ass vacation. A lot of these first-person stories can come off in the same way.

    So yes, it can be done. But you better make sure you do it well.
  9. SixToe

    SixToe Well-Known Member

    Either that, or they aren't good writers or are chained to the desk, so no one else should be able to do cool things like writing about wearing the mascot's uniform or working out with the local team.
  10. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Haw, haw. I can write rings around everybody in our building, and most certainly around our resident Walter Mitty/George Plimpton wannabe.

    The thing is, there are no crowds at the huge majority of recreational sports for a very good reason: If you participate, you care. If you don't, you don't.

    Nobody especially wants to read self-congratulatory ego-pumping bullshit out of a guy who was a good athlete in high school 20 years ago, who is now slightly better than most 38-year-olds, who contrives story after story to lube and stroke his own ego.

    We don't cover this stuff 99 percent of the time when there are normal 38-year-olds playing the game. Making a big deal out of it because Charley Copyboy is playing is nothing but a finger in the eye of everyone else who ever plays.
  11. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    One of my early mentors in this business told me that the only rule in journalism is, if it works, use it. I agree with pretty much everyone here that taking on a task like this is walking that fine line, but if the writer is talented enough and the topic is interesting enough, it can be done.
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