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The Chase

I am wearing my reporter's hat this summer, and, in making a couple of routine telephone calls yesterday, caught a whiff of a Big Story.

So I started chasing it. I left messages for people; I worked other potential sources on the cell phone so the land line would be free for return calls. The Chase. That's what makes reporting so much fun. One source door closes, and it's not a simply a matter of opening another door — it's a matter of figuring out if there is another door, and where to find it.

Even though some key sources stonewalled me, I wound up with more information than I expected. One guy who couldn't help me early in the afternoon called later and said, "I just got today's mail," and did I want a copy of the documents in the envelope that had much of the information I was seeking? I'll put it in the mail, he said.

Suppose I just stop by your house, I replied. When I got there, he didn't just give me a copy of the documents; he gave me the documents themselves. Bingo.

I had forgotten just how much all-consuming fun The Chase is.

There is, of course, a glitch: I need to connect with one more source, and he's not returning my call. I need to talk to him today or I'll have to hold the story until the next edition (I work for a weekly). He is the key to the story, the Rosetta Stone to help me decode everything I've learned so far. If he calls, I write the story today. If he doesn't, I don't.

If I get that call today, if I write the story today, I'll have a good shot at beating all the other local and regional media. That's important to me. I want the story to be utterly accurate first of all, but I also want the scoop.

If I don't get that call today, the story will have much more background, context and reaction next week, but the odds of my having a scoop next week go down considerably. That poses another writing challenge: to be second on a story, but better than the first wave of coverage.

I'd rather write the story today.

Needing one call and not getting it: I'd forgotten just what it feels like to sit by the phone and wait.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC)
I'll hold good thoughts that the source calls.
May. 28th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC)
That is so funny because I remember The Chase as well and don't miss one second of it. Good luck with the story.

One of the topics of discussion in my Intro to Mass Media classes is about getting the story first vs. getting a good story. The students usually seem to lean toward getting a good story as the better option.
May. 28th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
So often The Chase = "The Long, Anxious Wait."

Thanks for the vicarious rush of remembrance.
May. 28th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
I both love and hate that feeling. I'd rather squat over hot coals while I'm doing it, but the second that call comes in with the last piece of the puzzle? They'll never invent a drug that good.
May. 28th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
That last call never came today. More than a bit of a letdown.
May. 29th, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC)
I'm late to the story and was going to ask... rats. Is this for the business weekly up here? If so, gimme a heads up when it's going to run.
May. 29th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
Thanks at least for letting us know -- I was about to post and ask you. I'm sorry he didn't call.
May. 29th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
The Scoop. Ah, what a feeling that is!
May. 30th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
Speaking of that hat- Liz Wordelmann swears she saw you at I think the Jamestown Wal-Mart and she wasn't sure so she didn't say anything to you. However...she really does think that it was in fact you and wanted me to ask since she feels really dumb which resulted in a half hour ramble in my room the other day about whether or not she saw you.
May. 30th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
Please give my regards to Liz, and please tell her I can't remember the last time I was in Jamestown, so it wasn't me she saw.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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