A few days ago, I took off my "editor's cap" and put on my "reporter's cap" to see if I could get to the bottom of a strange occurrence at the annual Joy to the Children fundraiser. Unfortunately, when I wear my "reporter's cap," I get lazy and often don't practice "standard reporting procedure."
"Hey, Chris, what exactly does standard reporting procedure entail?"
I'm glad you asked, mysterious-unidentified-italicized-being, because I happen to have the list of those procedures right here, in my head. It includes all or some of the following:
•Owning, possessing, or wishing you had something to write with.
•Standing up or sitting down, as necessary.
•Asking questions, preferably to a real person but imaginary people work just as well (and often, those imaginary folks have the zaniest answers!).
•Listening to most of what people are saying (you can ignore words like "it," "the," "off the record," and "wait, don't print that").
•The five W's - wait (as in, "wait, I wasn't listening, could you repeat that?"), weight (as in, "wow, Mr. Mayor, you gained a lot of weight since our last interview!"), when (as in, "when are you going to stop talking? I'm absolutely starving"), what (as in, "what the hell are you talking about?"), and why (as in, "why?").
•Showering (cleanliness is godliness).
•Whatever you do, do not let them see what you are actually writing in your reporter's notebook... you're going to have to trust me on this one.
And while we are on the subject of what not to do, here are a few suggestions:
•Do not take anybody at their word. Somebody is always trying to pull a fast one. Example:
Me: And what happened when the fire department arrived?
Witness: Well, they got set up and put the fire out using water from the hydrant.
Me: Is that so?
Me: You are completely useless.
These tips should help you in the future, when you decide to do a little amateur reporting. Hopefully, if you follow my advice exactly, I will not have to worry about my job security.
Now, for those of you interested in how to write a column like "The Gravel Pit," feel free to use this week's column as a perfect example of how to start a story about a strange occurrence at Joy to the Children, realize immediately that nothing strange happened at Joy to the Children, and nonetheless complete a 500-word column.
Chris Morris is the news editor at Denton Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org