On Friday morning I was walking with Frank Zafiro, a Spokane author, about the locations that inspired moments in his books. We arrived at the Post Street Bridge to talk about its use in Beneath a Weeping Sky. I looked over the edge, down toward the Spokane river and that’s when I saw a bike sticking out of the water.
My inner photographer screamed out to take a photo, so I did. I brought it back to the station where I wrote a light-hearted “moment” about how, why and when it got there. I even contemplated its future. At the end of the 5 p.m. newscast, to keep the conversation going, I posted it on Facebook.
And oh, the conversation continue.
Apparently, there are some people in this world that do not enjoy a casual moment on Facebook. There were some who appreciated the humor and savored the story for what it was, just a light-hearted piece. Others thought it was not newsworthy. They’re right. It was not. Does that mean we can’t post locally relevant photo driven stories? What about all those sunsets and sunrises that viewers and readers go nuts over? I’d think those go in the same category.
One person hated it so much they recommended we make up the news because the “meth heads won’t know the difference”.
Other readers were quick to present the opposite opinion. One reader said it reminded her of home in Amsterdam, the bike-in-the-canal capital of the world.
Some wondered if it was their own bike. Some said that an effort should be made to rescue it. Some said it was better than hearing about war and death.
This begs the question, what do viewers and readers really want to hear? They’re quick to offer comment about a story they don’t like, but when there is real good happening they ignore it. They’d rather be aghast then proud.
It’s the nature of the beast.
For the second week in a row, I’ve found myself exiting the warmth of my home to explore possible breaking news on Spokane’s South Hill. This time I was about to start the next episode of Once Upon a Time*, when I heard sirens about to race by the SpoCats household. I don’t usually look to see what it is because it’s typically an ambulances. This time, I looked and it was a speeding patrol vehicle – lights on.
Let’s just say I got super excited. I turned on my 5-0 Police Scanner App and started hearing chatter about a pursued truck, spike strips along 29th and a foot pursuit. I ran around my house trying to collect my thoughts. It’s so close! How could I not go?
Well, I went. You can say it: I’m a nerd. Turns out some guy in the county decided not to pull over when Sheriff’s deputies tried to stop him for a broken tail light. Mike later remarked, “It’s ALWAYS a broken tail light.” The man led deputies on a pursuit to Latawah and 29th where they caught him as he tried to flee on foot.
Last week when I covered “breaking news” on the South Hill, I mentioned I was doing KXLY’s Fit Club and I recently obtained a Fit Bit to track how much I walk, what I eat, etc. Here’s an update. Since I started, I’ve lost three pounds. Please hold your applause until the end.
* Regarding Once Upon a Time. – I hate the show, but I can’t stop watching it. Every single time “Madam Mayor” enters the screen, I can’t help but say, “She’s too hot to be a mayor.” I have no problem with the fairy tale part of the show. It’s the “reality” that kills me. In what world can a city mayor have any power over a sheriff or its deputies? Excuse me: STORYBROOK IS A FANTASY CITY SYSTEM. IN WHAT WORLD DOES A MAYOR ATTEMPT TO APPOINT A JOURNALIST AS A SHERIFF. IN WHAT WORLD CAN GUSTAVO “GUS” FRING PLAY A REALLY HARMLESS NEWSIE WHO SMILES. WAAAH!
Holy schmoly! There was breaking news down the street from me, but let me talk about something else to preface.
I got my “FitBit” device in the mail. It’s like a pedometer, but fancier. I got it to help out with the KXLY Fit Club, a bunch of teams made up of news, sales, production, etc, to see how much weight we can lose as a group.
It tracks my calories burned, steps taken, level of activity and tracks how well I sleep. The sleep graph also tells me that starting around 7 a.m., the natives become restless and start pawing at my face – or suckling on my ear. Eww.
In an effort to walk more, I took this opportunity after reading @SpokaneFire‘s tweet to see what was up a couple blocks away.
Incident: 2012001997 – MVA – Major Incident Location: E 38TH AVE and S GRAND BV
— Spokane Fire (@SpokaneFire) January 16, 2012
At first I tried to run. After a few steps I gave up and transitioned into power walking. I could see tons of lights flashing down the street. When we got closer, there were no “crashed” vehicles. Just a bunch of neighbors who came outside to see what happened outside their home. One woman said she heard a scream. Another said a guy ran off. There was a lot of speculation, but not a lot of solid information. Spokane Police say it could be a possible assault.
I waited until the scene began to clear so I could talk to an Officer. They didn’t know much. Hopefully a press release will come out. That’s pretty much all we can rely on at this point.
In case you didn’t know, it’s cold outside, so we power walked home. I was stoked to refresh my Fitbit data because I wanted to see how much activity I accomplished for the day with that last minute exercise addition.
Thanks to afternoon antiquing and breaking news, as of 10:37 p.m. I took 7,040 steps, traveled 3.03 miles and burned 2,185 calories.
I only ate 1,412 calories and according to my weight loss plan, I could still eat another 638 calories and be in my okay range. I said to Mike, “This means I can eat more! Yay!”
I don’t think that’s how it works, but a girl can dream, right?
Is it too late in the year to create a new year resolution? If so, tough. I’m making my own rules tonight. After watching the documentary, One Page, I felt a little inspired because I could see the innards of a news organization that focuses around writing instead of video. I was like, “Hey! That’s what I do! I write! And write! And write!”
The next thing I know, I’m tweeting:
That’s it! That’s my resolution. I want to write better stories. Next step – find a better story.
This means sitting at my desk for a while and digging around in my head for the greatest idea ever. I was not very successful on my very first day in that super motivated attempt.
Well – kind of. I wrote a story about a moose. It was not your average moose on the loose in the Inland Northwest. It’s not like there was a twist ending either.
It was what came up out of conversation in the middle of the woods with a bunch of fish and wildlife officers talking about what happens to moose after they’re tranquilized and re-located.
Sometimes they die.
Tranquilizing a moose for relocation is only a last resort for fish and wildlife. Rahn says sometimes the moose don’t deal with it very well – and it’s even worse during the harsh winter months of January and February.
“When you tranquilize, the moose is released and a lot of times, they get stressed out or they aspirate, vomit and it gets stuck in their lungs. They die of infection a few days later,” Rahn explained.
Television loves moose stories. Sometimes – if they’re lucky – they produce great video. With that said, I never saw the moose, but I still wrote about the experience.
The story went from moose patrol to the procedural behind the scenes methods to keep wildlife and people safe.
Mike read the story and immediately commented with the following: “LOL PAINTBALLS REALLY”. That’s literally what he wrote.
Even my executive producer was all sad about the fate of some moose because media always portrays the re-locations as happy endings, but now we’ve learned that’s not always case.
I realized that I made a hum drum story into something awesome. Or at least I thought it was awesome. After work, all I could talk about was this moose story. This is the first step.
Next step: Fill an entire wall with story ideas written on post-it notes. That way if I ever whine that I have nothing to write about, I can see that I’m full of crap.
Yesterday, I really wanted to jump out of my newsroom chair and shout, “I BEAT THE SYSTEM!” and then let everyone wonder what I meant. In a way – I think I did beat the system. Here’s how I did it:
It wasn’t the headline – it was the photo. A picture of a red Toyota 4-Runner that was stuck in a Lake Roosevelt swamp last year just before Halloween.
National Park Services hinted that they had photos from the day a crew of them had to hike into the swamp to remove the vehicle because the towing company wouldn’t. Without a visual element, my story would de-fizzle.
I called the offices for Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and explained my intentions. They responded by saying I’d have to file a FOIA and that would take forever and couldn’t meet my deadline of same-day or next morning. I told them I was a dreamer and a wishful-thinker. With a few tugs of strings up top, I have a photo taken over a year ago from the scene.
The online version of the photo had its quality reduced when it was uploaded, but if you look carefully at this version (same photo – just bigger), you can see a Keystone beer can hanging out on top. Look just behind a tree branch.
Sometimes I like to fancy myself a real journalist, but then my obsession with writing cat-related stories says otherwise. My response? Cats are the future. Or at least a few million years in the future if you go with the Doctor Who universe of catkind on New Earth.
Mike points out that if I have to start out my blog entry by saying, “Sometimes I like to fancy myself a real journalist”, – really says otherwise.
Am I? I found a checklist. Let’s go through it and find out together.
1. Written a 15-inch story in 30 minutes
Doesn’t apply. I work in television news/web which has its own set of rules – or no rules at all. It’s like the Wild West out there.
2. Corrected a loved one’s grammar in a greeting card
3. Replaced one of the major food groups with coffee
I keep my own Trader Joe’s creamer hidden in the communal refrigerator.
4. Own your own police scanner
I asked for one for Christmas, but didn’t get it – but I did receive a radiation detector. You can actually listen to a menagerie of scanners via the iPhone app, 5-0 Radio.
5. Eat in your car more often than you do at a table
I try not to make the news vehicles messy, so I avoid this at all costs. I do see the remnants of meals left by previous drivers.
6. Gotten fired/laid off for no good reason
Not in news – yet.
7. Forgotten what it’s like to have the weekend off
Uh oh. I work Monday-Friday
8. Can no longer read a newspaper without scanning for typos and errors
Print content? Not so much. Web content? All the time.
9. Learned that being told to “fuck off “ and “go to hell” is part of the job
Surprisingly enough – no one has told me this yet.
10. Woke in a cold sweat thinking you forgot to change the date on A1.
I have jumped out of bed in the middle of the night realizing that I wrote something wrong or I forgot to change something.
11. Spend your down time coming up with the perfect lede
“Breaking Mews” was a 15-minute meme in the newsroom.
12. Slept in your car and not because you were too drunk to drive home
Why would I go out when I have a fine selection of cherry vodka and root beer liqueur in the cabinet? Also, check out the hashtag: #partylikeajournalist
13. Found that fine line between harassment and persistence.
Call once. Call twice. Email. Call three times, leave a message. Call four times. Knock on their door.
14. If you needed bail, the first person you would call would be your editor.
If only I had such a thing in television.
15. You analyze city council meetings the way sportscasters break down Monday night football.
Things Joe Shogan Says and George McGrath
16. You think it’s normal to work 16 hours a day for 8 hours pay
17. Have conducted a phone interview while completely naked
18. Can write an entire interview on a cocktail napkin.
Sometimes I write them on the back of receipts.
19. Threatened to quit over an editorial decision.
Dude. Spokane is apparently #1 for the worst hiring outlook for 2012.
20. You couldn’t imagine doing anything else
Sometimes I think I can, but then I realize that cat stories are AWESOME.
Source: Stuff Journalists Like – Checklist For Being a Real Journalist
The list was generated by mostly print-oriented journalists. I attempted to search for a similar television-esque/web checklist to refer to, but gave up because the cat wouldn’t stop licking my fingers while I was typing. Don’t ask.