Saturday, May 15, 2010

Writing from the Heart: Deadlines

Finding that illusive story while on deadline can be a challenge, but there's nearly always a story waiting to be written. I was a rookie news reporter when sent to a near-by town to cover the meeting of a small town council. For the first time in nine years the council conducted no business. They lacked a quorum.

While waiting for one more council member to arrive, people chatted about a number of things. Then the council got a call. The absent member was at the hospital with his mother who had a possible heart attack. The board president dismissed the meeting.

Back at the newsroom I turned on the computer and stared at it for what seemed an eternity. Then I found my lead. The lack of a quorum halted the conducting of business. This was a first for this particular council.

I filed a very short story and waited for the managing editor to read it.

She said it was a first for the newspaper too, at least in her time. Never had a college student and rookie reporter ever come up with a story when nothing happened.

Even a crazy day, a full dumpster, and hunting a parking place can be the ingredients for cooking up a column -- super fast. Try this one on for size. The headline read "Legs Stop Traffic."
I first wrote it for The Twin City Journal-Reporter in Gas City, IN.

I should have known what kind of crazy day it would be when I spent half an hour waiting for my daughter to meet me for breakfast before I left for work. I was in the wrong restaurant. I finally realized it and remembered where we were to meet.

We enjoyed breakfast and headed our separate ways. My arrival in Gas City was uneventful -- until I tried to park. The lot by the office was full, so I drove down the alley intending to go to the front of the newspaper office and park.

As I looked to my left to check out traffic before turning right, I did a double take when I saw a pair of legs sticking out of a dumpster. I parked and went in to grab a camera. Before I could get out of the office we'd received two calls. People were curious about those legs.

It seems that Scott Wright, of the Wright Cut, bought a box of mannequins at an auction to use in an art project. Parts he couldn't use he put in the dumpster.

"Usually dealers buy them for hundreds of dollars," he said. "I got the whole box of bones for only $10."

As I stood on the sidewalk talking with Wright, camera hanging around my neck, I watched people go by. One woman pulled into the bank drive through, took her glasses off and cleaned them, looked again then drove off looking slightly bewildered.

Someone else drove by slowly and pulled into the alley for a second look. If they noticed me out on the sidewalk with a camera they probably wondered if they were participating in a local version of Candid Camera.

If only I had had the time to wait for trash pickup. The expressions on the faces of the trash collectors might have been well worth snapping. Wright said maybe he should put more bones out each Friday for a while just to see the reaction.

Where have you found unexpected stories? Enquiring minds want to know. So do I.

Pat Radaker

1 comment:

  1. Pat do you live in Gas City? Or close by? I grew up in Gas City and know Scott Wright. Get my hair cut at his place. I'll be sure to mention this post to him. :) He'll get a kick out of it. How fun to have you mention my stomping ground. LOL.

    Do you still write for the Journal? I wrote for the Palaver for a time and the Chronicle-Tribune. It's such a small world...