Sunday, January 27, 2008

What a Week


I drove two hours to Pelican Rapids to conduct an interview. I arrived around 4:30 p.m. and didn't depart until about 7:30 p.m. I have mixed feelings about interviews lasting this long. My instinct is to say - wow - that is waaaay to long to be conducting an interview for a story that will be somewhere other than the front page. An interview that runs too long is dangerous because of its ability to create information overload in the mind of the reporter/interviewer. However, the more time you spend with the person you are interviewing, the more accurate a picture you are able to paint of them in your story - no matter how abbreviated. The day after the interview, my editor actually received a call from the man I interviewed, vehemently praising me. He said our "interview" was like a conversation, and nothing like he expected (this being a good thing). Initially, this man only agreed to do a story if he could read the article before it ran; he told my boss on the phone that he trusted me and he didn't need to see the story. That is a great compliment.


I hustled my hinder at work so I could skip out early, around four, and meet my broadcasting journalism buddy in St. Paul, Minn. for a media workshop (which is actually a 10 week course) sponsored by the police department. The chief of police, a training Sergeant and various others spoke at the introductory class. Unfortunately for me, the inaugural class focused only on the history of the St. Paul PD. It was interesting, but not particularly relevant to me since I don't, and probably won't ever, live in St. Paul. The information they are planning to cover in the future classes - how police approach a crime scene, the difference between misdemeanors and felonies and which city/county agencies work with the department, Q&As with investigators/detectives (the difference between the police department ranks) - promise to be more interesting. I only intended to go to one class, but I am really fascinated by these topics - so I hope to continue to attend the class.

After the class, my buddy took me out to dinner at this place called "Cafe Latte" where we had some tasty soup and pasta salad. Then she gave me a tour of the television station where she worked and I was able to watch the anchors deliver the first segment of the 10 o'clock news -- Live! It was a rockin' good time! I was really pumped after such a great night.


I woke up around 5:30 a.m. to hurry up and pack my stuff for the Minnesota Newspaper Convention, get myself looking all fine and professional, and take my doggy to the Puppy Boarding House. I got on the road, Bloomington-bound at about 8 a.m. I checked into the Sheraton hotel and got situated. Then I took a little nap before my first seminar because I was exhausted. The highlight of my day was the luncheon, where career journalism and WCCO anchor DON SHELBY shared his thoughts on the First Amendment and the challenges facing journalists today. I could write an entire blog on it. It was really emotional and insightful. After his speech, I was able to introduce myself to him, shake his hand, and mumble something silly and high school girl-ish about how he is my favorite anchor. (see "Dear Mr. Gable: You Made Me Love You," as sung by Judy Garland). I also enjoyed sitting in on a seminar about small-town journalism that feature a panel of newspaper editors, including my former editor. I was able to ask a question that had been plaguing me and received a somewhat satisfactory answers. It was so great to be around so many people from small town papers (of varying sizes) and listen as they shared their struggles and triumphs.

Afterward, I reconnected with a lot of my college friends who have gone on to work at newspapers, mostly moderately sized weeklies. One friend even won a second place award. I was very excited for him! I know how fun it is to win an award at MNA (even if my present editor makes like its no big deal). Plus he is a pretty talented writer, so I know the award is deserved. The paper where I used to work took home about seven awards at this year's convention (according to my friends/colleagues there). I was glad to be able to congratulate them. Soon they will need to put up more walls in the building to accommodate their growing number of awards.

My current boss (not to be confused with editor) took all of my paper's staff (mostly sales reps and me)to dinner and it was nice because I really got to know the rest of the staff more intimately (especially the sales rep I roomed with - she is something else!). Attending a sales meeting also gave me a better idea of how the other half lives. We don't always understand each other, but we need each other to be viable!


I attended two rockin' seminars - one about photography/web video, which is all the rage now. It's really exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I hope to be able to put together web videos someday. It seems like tremendous fun (and work) plus it will increase my marketability. The second seminar was about writing better leads (the first paragraph of the article/story). I was psyched to learn that I was already employing a lot of the techniques the speaker described as effective (and sometimes the one he described as less effective.) The funny thing is, I think we small town journalists all learned the less effective technique from looking at the New York Times and Washington Post, which we automatically assume are the poster children for effective, professional, journalistic writing. All in all I had a FANTASTIC time at the MNA convention, learned a lot, reconnected with a lot of old friends/colleagues/editors/teachers, and am pumped for my future in journalism! Yeay!