Monday, August 19, 2013

What I Did Over My Summer Vacation by Meg Donahue

Summer is a bit of a dead time in the department. And by "a bit of" read "a massively." The boss had it in mind that a few of the staff would do different rotations with our partners during the summer as we had time to spare. So that would mean we would spend a week in the photo department of the paper, a week with the radio station, a week with the cops reporters, so on and thusly. Someone called it a way to develop "Cross Departmental Competency" which was a far fancier term than what I was calling it. The Holy-Hell-They're-Going-to-Find-Out-I-Have-No-Idea-What-I'm-Doing-and-Ultimately-Judge-Me-Harshly-Because-of-it Rotation Week was a tiny bit longer of a term and required a big gulp of air halfway through saying it before you could continue, but it was apt as to the panic I had before I started my first rotation.

First rotation,  radio news and features.

You know how people criticize Aaron Sorkin by saying that no one talks in that clipped-quick-one-step-ahead-walking-and-talking-because-I'm-so-busy-I don't-have-time-to-sit-and-talk-because-damnit-I- have-places-to-go dialogue he writes? Fun Fact: It turns out that that is the native language of radio journalists on deadline.

My first assignment went by in a hazy streak of press release, script, voicing and AP style. I was, and remain, positive that it is the worst thing that ever took to the air. Like the Hindenburg of spot news. Ah, but my second assignment was a feature and I know from features. I've covered a decent amount of zoning board meetings and city council meetings but for me that was news, never a story. For me, stories live in the odd and overlooked corners of what doesn't get covered. Being a fan of the odd and overlooked, I naturally was drawn to features where these two flourished.

Before we go any further, I suppose a little back story is in order here. Macon, Georgia is known as the City of Churches. It has over 200 different churches within the city. There are only two mosques. Being as it was Ramadan, I did a story on being Muslim in Macon.

The good thing about journalism is that you are allowed to have short bursts of obsession. For that week Islam was my obsession.

I know the Arabic names of the five daily prayers all Muslims must pray. I know all the synonyms for "Mosque." I know the reasoning behind the fasting of Ramadan. I know they use a lunar, rather than a solar calendar to decide on what day Ramadan will start. I know the life stories of many of the congregants of the mosque. I know the stories they weren't sure they wanted to tell.

Of all this information, maybe 20% went into the actual story. But it was the best 20%.

Then comes the sound editing. We will go into that adventure in the next blog post. Also, I will post the story itself, so you get to see what all this panic and hard work culminated in.    


Kimberly Turner said...

Your summer vacation sounds muy stressful, but also muy interesting; that's a fair trade-off, yeah? I can't wait to hear about your time with the photo department and the cops reporters too. Are you gonna post about those? Pretty please?

Also, I feel like my entire life is just week after week of Holy-Hell-They're-Going-to-Find-Out-I-Have-No-Idea-What-I'm-Doing-and-Ultimately-Judge-Me-Harshly-Because-of-it weeks. That's probably a bad thing, huh?

Lastly, short bursts of obsession are the BEST thing about journalism. Great post!

angelcollins said...

So, where is this story of which you speak?