May 18, 2016
All journalists are aware of the fact that there are ‘slow news days’. These days usually but now always fall around Christmas (unless there is a terrorist attack), long weekends and school summer holidays (unless there are is a union protesting by burning tires at the Chunnel, the English-France border crossing, or desperate Syrian refugees hoping to somehow get admittance into England), Remembrance Day, etc.etc.
This can be a good time for a journalist who is new to the business to get national or even international attention if s/he thinks of a story no one else thought of or happens to be in the right place at the right time.
At times like these, news people try to create the news in a way that they usually do not do. On a small weekly newspaper, it can be more difficult to coming up with something than it is in the daily news outlets.
That is why in the following column, I called for a particular segment of the population in rural southern Saskatchewan to put their names forward so I could write about them:
February 2, 1983
by Tanya Lester
Journalists are a funny breed of people. We are often taught or learn or told to be competitive. The idea, especially for journalists on larger newspapers, radio stations and television stations, is to get the ‘hot’ news story first.
Sometimes this is fine. If Woodward and Bernstein had let other journalists know that they were working on the Presidnet Nixon-Watergate scandal, they never would have become so famous.
And from a news point of view, if other journalists had found out about the story before Woodward and Bernstein were ready to publish it, the story would have come out before all the facts were gathered. This would have given Nixon and his aides time to arrange a cover-up and possibly Woodward and Bernstein could have even been brought to court for libel.
But let’s get back to reality here. Reporting in small town Saskatchewan is a long way from reporting in big city Washington , D.C. Often journalists working in a small town are the sole reporters on their newspapers. Story ideas, whether ‘hot’ news or human interest, can be difficult to find.
This is why myself and other rural reporters have got together to form a rural reporters’ association. One of the aims of the association is to serve as a vehicle for reporters to exchange story ideas.
For example, when I wrote the story about the federal government constituency boundary changes, I worked on it with some help from a radio news reporter in Swift Current. Having met him through the association, he phoned to get some information about what the Member of Parliament in this area thought about the changes. I was able to give him the MP’s Ottawa phone number.
In exchange, he was able to tell me who the present MP in the Swift Current area is as this was important to my story because the proposed changes would mean Gravelbourg would be part of the new Swift Current-Assiniboia riding. We also exchanged details concerning what the government bureaucrats involved in making the changes were saying to the press.
These are small details but you would be surprised how much less time it takes to write a story when a reporter can work with another journalist on it.
This story also ended up in the Borderland Reporter as it had implications for readers in the Coronack area. Since then, Jeff Rosen, who is the editor of that paper and also a member of the Rural Reporters’ Association, has run other stories of mine including one on MLA Allan Engel’s opinions on the Power Plant and CPR rail line closure hearings as well as another story of the increase of students enrolled in French immersion programs. Both those stories pertained to his readership area just as much as they had to our newspaper readers.
Of course, it hasn’t been a one-way street. Jeff’s stories have sometimes been run the Gazette and some of the stories that he gets from me are changed, and run with both my and his byline, so they will better relate to his readers. I’ve got a lot of story ideas from him, too.
Often I also get my articles ideas from Gazette readers as well. Some of you will drop around to the office with names of people to interview. Often these lead to some nice human interest stories.
Then, there are the story ideas I get from people I am interviewing as the subject of another story. Recently, Norma Dreger, who also used to work on a small newspaper, gave me several story ideas when I was over at her hours interviewing her for last week’s Beta Sigma Phi article.
I hope to use a few of Norma’s ideas over the next couple of months. One, I want to use in the very near future, if I can get your help in supplying me with information.
This story idea appeals to me because often people who don’t have a special hobby or profession or who are not involved in politics never have an article written about them even though they may have a very interesting story to tell. It’s just that its difficult for me to find them.
So, the story idea is this: I want to interview, take a photograph, and write a story about the grandparents, or grandfather or grandmother who has the most grandchildren.
This is what I want you to do: either send me or phone men with the name or names of the grandparent(s) who you might think has the larger number of grandchildren. It could be you or your parents or someone you know.
Just mail your entry to: Tanya Lester, Gravelbourg Gazette, Box 900, Gravelbourg, Sask,m SOH 1X0. Or given me a phone call…
The grandparent or grandparents should be living with the Gazette readership area which runs about as far north as the Shamrock area, west to the Ponteix area, south to the Mankota area and east to around Mazenod and Melaval. Anyone who lives with these general boundaries could qualify for the story.
The grandparent or grandparents with the most number of grandchildren will be asked to tell me a little bit about their own lives , their children’s lives, and their grandchildren’s lives for the story.
Please get your entries into me by Monday, March 7 and the winning grandparents will be interviewed shortly after that with the inclusion of the story in the Gazette to appear a couple of weeks after that date. The grandparents will get enough copies of that issue of the Gazette to send to their children and grandchildren.
I hope to hear from you with those entries soon!
Next week: Equal Pay in “Equal Times”.
Tanya Lester is also a psychic reader — tea leaf, tarot, psychic channel, mediumship, Russian gypsy cards — and a housesitter. In both she has experience in Canada, the United States and Europe. To get a reading or arrange for her to house sit for you go to email@example.com, call 250-538-0086 cell; pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google or web at teareading.wordpress.com, also her blog at tealeaf56.wordpress.com or writingsmall.wordpress.com