by Evan Sernoffsky
And so it comes down to this. Well, not all of it, but finishing the rough draft of my enterprise story comes with a well-earned “aaaaaaahhhhhh.” Not the screaming kind of vocal exertion that a bunch of “a”s followed by a bunch of “h”s implies, but more a sigh that comes from voiding my emotional bowels. After devoting all of my mental energy to a story and working diligently to make a deadline, I’m not felling half bad.
My enterprise story was on the GrassRoots Garden, a 2.5 acre urban farm that grows fruits and vegetables for Food for Lane County. I came across the garden somewhat by accident. I was initially going to profile a gardener for an earlier piece, but what I found was a much bigger story. I chose to tell the story of the garden through the lens of the people who work and volunteer, and made sure to cover all the nuts-and-bolts.
The main people whom I interviewed were Merry Bradley, GrassRoots Garden coordinator; Lynn Negus, Adopt-a-Plot coordinator for the GrassRoots Garden; Teresa Koch from Mobility International; Jen Anonia, from Food for Lane County; and a whole host of volunteers at the garden.
Oh the things that I’ve learned. It’s amazing that the real learning in a reporting class actually happens outside of the classroom—something I would argue happens in journalism more than most fields of study. Some things can’t be taught.
What I absorbed in the classroom and in the readings for this term however, was instrumental in facilitating what I was able to do in the trenches (if I may so tactlessly compare a story about an urban garden to some kind of warfare). Best Newspaper Writing and Inside Reporting helped me find the stories that I may have otherwise missed while covering the GrassRoots Garden.
The most important thing for me was to attach people to the story that I told. Without the human element my story would have suffered immensely. Instead of only using my recorder to cover the question and answer part of my work, I decided to let it run and try to capture some of the background intrigue. It was a painstaking process to sift through all the audio, but well worth it when I was able to pull out a little nugget of brilliance that I would not have thought to pay attention to. “Note to self: always keep a recorder on hand.”
I also found that the writing of my story was probably the easiest part of the process. Once I had transcribed all the quotes that I was to use, formulated a loose outline, and picked my angle, the story basically wrote itself. I have heard this phenomenon is not unusual in the news business.
Now it comes down to the editing and revision process. While there is still quite a bit of work to do in this department, it will mostly concern style and form. The interview process is over.
Stay tuned for my story on the GrassRoots Garden and what it means to those who give their time to such an amazing place.