Monday, May 04, 2015

What I Love To Do

Last night, it all came back to me.

I was working on a long article for a local publication, one that included much research and the reading of boring legal documents. It was a story that I figured few would read, but the information mattered. Somebody had to write it.

Suddenly, I spied something off. I read. I reread. It made no sense, and it was a major scoop if it were true. That's a reporter's dream right there.

I called my editor and told him what I'd found. Yes, it was Sunday evening. I interrupted his repair of a carburetor, but what I'd come across was important enough that he went to clean the grime off his hands and head for his keyboard.

For a time, we both thought we might have something. It seemed improbable. I think we both knew in our gut that it was incorrect paperwork, but we had to be sure. It was big if it wasn't. Major scandal.

Long story short, what I'd found wasn't wrong-doing, just an embarrassing error that highly paid lawyers, not a low paid freelance reporter, should have found. But had it not been an error, it would have had local folks in an uproar. Heads would have rolled.

But in the figuring it out, in the working on it part - the excitement building as I thought I had a major story, the discussion with my editor, the follow-up Sunday evening phone calls to community leaders, there it was.

What I love to do.

I love to chase a story. I love the feel of it, the idea of it, the smell of it. I love thinking I have something that the public has the right to know, and I'm the one figuring it out and presenting it to them. I love sniffing after a lead like an ol' hound dog on the track of a rabbit. I track down first this person and then the next, putting together the puzzle pieces until I have a complete picture. And then I write it up so a sixth grader can understand it, and send it out into the world. And frankly, I'm damn good at it.

Even when a story fizzles, like it did last night, for a while the adrenaline flows. The body forgets it hurts every time I breathe. My focus becomes acute, I see nothing else. Just the story. The words and the world of it, the happenings around it. The build up to how something happened, the actual climax of it occurring, and the dénouement - all the parts of a novel - there they are, in a newspaper story.

Like writing a best seller, only in 1,000 words.

I used to do it almost every week. Now I seldom do it at all - most of the time what little writing I am doing is straight forward and a bit boring, because I don't feel well enough to do anything else. The pay for the work isn't there, either, not like it was ten years ago. With our brave new world and all of that, our information isn't gathered as it once was. The governments do what they want because they think no one is watching now. Frequently, they are right about that.

I'm still watching. Mostly it's mundane. Sometimes, though, it's not.

I cannot tell you how much I miss those times when it's not.


  1. I'm glad you got to enjoy the chase, even if it did turn out to be an error instead of a scandal. '-)

  2. And that is what makes you a journalist. Good for you.


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