In my callow youth, interviewing for a job with a newspaper, I was sent to the local main street to come back with a story. This assignment from the august Washington Post sounds a lot like my youthful test (fyi: I was offered the job):
Some stories require a reporter to go to a specific place, a crime scene, a school, a sports arena or a government office. Some stories, sadly, get reported in the worst possible place — the newsroom, where phone calls and email can never really capture the nuance of an event or the emotional reality of a character. But the best stories come from the most unexpected places.
There’s a truism in journalism that says stories are everywhere, that every person contains the material for a story that can reveal to readers some essential truth about who we are and the pressing questions of our time.
To test that theory, six Washington Post reporters this Wednesday will fan out to coffee houses in Virginia, Maryland and the District to find stories that tell us something about the way we live today. These may be stories about individual people who are struggling to make ends meet, or to find love or happiness, or to map out their futures. Or they may be stories about places and events that shape our lives. Each reporter is tasked with finding a story in one room, one gathering spot. The reporters have just a few hours to identify their story, report it out, write it up and send it in to their editor.
So, IWFers, fan out to coffee houses and tell Washington Post reporters that you’re sick and tired of higher taxes, legislation rammed through Congress without sufficient public support-and that you’re thinking about subscribing to the Economist, just because it doesn’t do stunts like this.
This may be a good journalistic exercise, determining what kinds of skills a reporter has, but doesn’t it seem just a little bit silly to publish your try-outs? Also, I’m willing to bet that reporters will be inclined to find stories that support their views.
Still, it would be nice to see reporters at, say, Tea Part events, where people are truly trying to tell you how they are struggling to meet ends, and about what shapes their lives.