Often when you’re looking for a story idea what gets you started is your own curiosity about the story subject. You find something interesting to you personally and you want to tell people about it. Next you start asking questions that are going to inform how your piece will turn out. Two of the many questions that came up for me in making this piece were: why now and so what? Why are you telling this story now and what does it mean?
The incident in 93 Men took place back in 2011, so why now? These events hadn’t really been reported on in Cape Cod when they took place although they connected people from the Cape to a larger world crisis that continues on today. But the other question, the so what, was the crux of this piece. It’s also the question that I learned to keep asking all the way through reporting any story. If you can answer it, it’ll drive the entire story.
93 Men is about an event so it has a natural chronological narrative, but trying to figure out what it meant for listeners now, five years later, was challenging. In my attempt to answer that question I made efforts to track down people that the story was about, people whose names I didn’t have, people in a foreign country with a foreign language. These unsuccessful efforts left me with a story with no conclusive ending. I struggled with that late into the editing process. Feeling unable to ‘bring the story home’ with follow up from the people it’s about frustrated me. Then I realized that was exactly what this story was about. That not knowing what happens to the people in the story is the real story; that not knowing is exactly what’s really happening for the people experiencing the crisis the story is about. And there was my ‘so what.’
Scott’s Sonic ID
You never know where good tape is going to come from, but recognize the opportunities that come your way. Case in point: I was walking home from a meeting with Jay Allison when I encountered a bunch of people surrounding an animal in the street in residential Woods Hole. The people seemed a bit scared and unsure of what to do next. Suddenly the animal, a pot bellied pig, sauntered up to me and started biting my legs. After a few minutes of this weird scene, with me defending myself from a pig on the street, the pig’s owner, Anne Kent, ran out of a nearby house with carrots in her hand and yelled “Damn it Lulu!” Before luring the pig away with the carrots, Anne politely told me that I ought to be flattered that Lulu was biting me because Lulu was in heat — the pig was attracted to me.
Amazing right? Get this: I didn’t get any of that on tape. It all happened so fast and I was busy defending myself against pig bites. But still… opportunity. After things calmed down, I collected myself, knocked on her door and asked Anne if I could interview her and Lulu.