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Working outside of your comfort zone

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by MTM, May 17, 2012.

  1. MTM

    MTM Well-Known Member

    As a reporter, what do you do that's outside of your comfort zone and how do you deal with it?

    For me it's covering live police activities and interviewing families of the recently deceased.

    We have a lot of military personnel in our area and in the last few months I've been sent to three homes for interviews with family members of men killed in action.

    I find myself hoping that no one is home, which was the case once. Another time the guy had moved and the third time I awkwardly interviewed the guy's father and father-in-law.

    As for cop stuff, I think my trepidation is mostly because I'm unfamiliar with the rules. Who do you talk too? And when? I think I'm too polite and don't want to bother the officers, even if they appear to be standing around.

    Is it just a case of growing some balls and stepping up, or are there other tips to use?
  2. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    For me, it's Special Olympics.

    I find that whole scene so heart-rending, I really can't function.
  3. ColdCat

    ColdCat Well-Known Member

    I had to do a lot of both talking to cops and talking to families of the recently departed when I worked in news. It didn't help that I worked in a couple cities with rather high murder rates.
    Talking to families was always the hardest and one of the reasons I was anxious to jump to sports. One of my last stories in news was on a pair of teens who were driving home drunk from a party and hit a tree. I went to the scene where there was a memorial set up and got screamed at by the cousin of one of the kids. I understood where he was coming from, and actually when he cooled down he talked for a long time and gave pretty good quotes about his cousin's life.
    But at that point I realized that for most of the people I met on the job, it was the worst day of their life.

    I have done the special olympics story too, and that was the most fun I've had on the job. The athletes were having a blast and it was infectious.

    As for talking to cops, just go up to the first uniform you see, introduce yourself, and ask who's in charge. unless he's a total dick, he'll get the detective or sgt or whatever on the radio for you
  4. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    No writer should have a comfort zone.
  5. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Why? They are happy, right? If you want your heart ripped apart, watch them do something where they fail over and over.

    At the Special Olympics, they are probably having one of the best days of their year.
  6. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I find that really interesting, Henry.

    I have never thought about it that way.

    I covered World Games in 1995 and had covered the state games the two years. That's one of those things I seek out.

    Those events are emotional.
  7. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I hate the he-said, she-said stories between schools and parents (like the one I dealt with this week).

    I used to write the "Dead-Guy Columns" when I was in Sports. I almost always good stuff.

    The tough one was the day I saw the column in the casket. (I knew her sons well enough to go to the wake).

    The cop thing is always interesting.

    MTM: The key is to get to know them as much as you can. If you're at the station, say hello. Learn the chain of command. I agree, that if you don't know, you just ask for someone to talk to.

    I also seek out decent cop features, like police academy graduations, K9 stories, promotions, etc. (Did a mock crash last week).

    They will never completely trust you, but those things can help.
  8. MTM

    MTM Well-Known Member

    Thanks, BillyT.

    The problem is, I'm not a cop reporter. I'm an education reporter, but we don't have a dedicated cop reporter on staff, so we all get sent out at random.

    That makes it hard to build relationships.
  9. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    That may be the problem (for me) right there.
  10. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    That's how I read it.
  11. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    MTM: That makes it really hard, because you are at the mercy of your colleagues.

    I find it surprising a place has an education reporter, but not a cops reporter.

    I would suggest that if a school has a mock crash or some other appearance by police (K9, DARE, etc.) that you try to go and do the story and meet some cops to know by name.
  12. BobSacamano

    BobSacamano Member

    that's a nice idea and all, but it gets tough when you do some freelance copy for a fucking rug manufacturer with a 300-page book about the patterns, fabrics, and thickness. only so many ways to say this exquisite piece was inspired by the who gives a fuck.

    granted, that's not reporting as the OP intended, but it is writing.

    also, i hate business reporting. what's the point in putting together 400 words filled with quotes and details on the who, what, where, when, why from people you know are concealing shit. i hate relying on a vp of xy division to give me all the company speak. mostly because it's useless and i get enough of it from athletes.
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