My Thought On Part 2 of “Telling True Stories”

Where to begin? A common question I find asking myself as a venture through all the twists and turns of journalism. Whatever I write, however I start Anne Hull has made me feel as though my pitfalls, my indecisiveness, my woopsies are only ways to acquire the journalistic skills I desire. What makes me say this, the fact that Anne Hall admits, “There aren’t rules just accidents I’ve learned along the way.”

With that in mind I have to admit I am still finding the best way to write a story, whether it be hard news or a light feature. I found it interesting the different perspectives Adam Hochschild and Jacqui Banaszynski have on the use of tape recorders. For me I am still trying to figure out if the little hand-held device is an angle or a devil.

Similar to Banaszynski I too feel that it slows me down. After a long interview going back to my computer and transcribing each sentence is not only tedious but it disrupts my so called zone.

On the other hand the device has saved me a few times when my source was talking too fast for me to scramble down what they just vocalized. Hochschild, unlike Banasynski doesn’t see the device so much as a “crutch” but like a tool. Enabling him to fill his notebook with vivid details instead of quotes or Q&A. I find the recorder not only allows me to capture detail but at various times as my source is talking I may have a thought or comment I can scribble down and mark with the time on the recorder. 

I cannot end this post without mentioning Ted Conover. I too feel my best work “has resulted from immersion in someone else’s world,” “Participant observation” is what Conover calls this immersion.  Agreeing with Conover, his book NewJack, which for me was an assigned reading along with The New Jim Crow, for an incarceration class I took over the summer, was a very good piece of work. I don’t think Conover could have created such a wonderful book if he had not went “undercover.” Just last week I took it upon myself to do a little undercover work. I was not sure about the ethically boundaries but I felt as though this was the only way to aqurie the information I was seeking. Oh, yes, right you would probably like to know what I was reporting on. Fair enough, conversion therapy, was the issue. Two weeks ago 11th district Councilman Judd Krasher, proposed an ordinance which would banned conversion therapy in Albany. Well back to my under cover work. I felt the story needed more I had plenty of sources against it, noting all the negative consequences but I had yet to hear from someone pro conversion therapy. At first I asked all my sources if they new of anyone in the area practicing the therapy but nobody seemed to know, so I did a little research, found an organization based in New Jersey and let’s just say I got what I was looking for after a lengthy conversion under the alias Mary…concerned sister for gay brother.

As I work my way through assignments I find myself longer for more time. Time to connect with my source, build a relationship, and conduct what Jon Franklin calls a psychological interview. The in and out reporting is what most editors are looking for, that’s been my impression thus far but I like the idea of 10 months with my source(s), whether it be undercover or not that kind of work is what I think I yearn.

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