Saturday, April 26, 2008

A story is like Thanksgiving Dinner

I see the newspaper stories I write as Thanksgiving dinners. Little, journalistic, Thanksgiving dinners. Made of words.
The problem with producing stories day in and day out at most small daily or weekly newspapers is that your editor (especially if your editor is you) needs a lot of stories. Like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, if ad sales are going well, the publication is an ever growing thing with a growing need. "Feed me!" Of course, it's a limited analogy because the demand isn't for flesh but for words. But I digress.
So you need to crank out stories. Instead of pitching a fit about "quality" and using the lack of time for the excuse to produce work that's less than ideal, why not subject yourself to the discipline of cracking down and producing what's needed and then some, day in, day out. C'mon. It will be fun. It will be like swinging three bats in preparation for the big baseball game.
So back to the Thanksgiving dinner analogy.
When you make the feast, you use the stove, the oven, the fridge, the sink, the counter, the cutting board, the microwave. But not all at once. There are a lot of little pieces to the meal that must be set in motion in their times in order to be frozen, thawed, mixed, boiled, baked, sauteed,chilled, set, nuked, warmed, heated, garnished, displayed -- all to get on the table at 5 p.m. on the dot.
When you make the story, it's the same. You will make contacts, make calls, go to meetings, interviews, research online, email, transcribe, put in order, delete extraneous material, pick a lead, edit, polish, read aloud. Garnish.
If we rely on the mechanics of writing, go through the motions, get just enough, slap it together, it might be a meal, but it won't be Thanksgiving.
We must not overlook the final steps: put in order, delete extraneous material, pick a lead, edit, polish, read aloud. Garnish.
And we must learn to do it fast, because although it's like a little Thanksgiving, in reality, it's like a cow.
No matter how well we milk it today, we will just have to get up and milk it again tomorrow.

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