Hunting for Stories in Agendas

As a lover of board and commission meetings, I scour through new agendas each week. Not only do the agendas allow for future planning of bigger stories compared to smaller ones, but it allows me to “prepare.”And by “prepare,” I mean plan. Most agendas are available online or I just get them faxed over to the office.

With an agenda in hand, I’ve learned a reporter can brace themselves for the right story and the better story. I’m not singling out the smaller agenda items on purpose. All of the stories have to be written, obviously, but I have to prioritize when you can only pitch two each day for the paper. So, back to where I was.

I may want to have four stories pitched each day, so that I can write the story and get it done with, but it’s kind of nice to be able to “bank” stories in my own queue. That practice has taught me how to prioritize what I want to write versus what I should be writing first. It’s a balancing act. Sometimes you can’t get the story you want right away, due to more phone calls or more work. It’s definitely not something that I was used to before I started, but it’s the way life is.

Before the meeting I look at potential “big” stories and see what could get some good attention from board and commission members. I must say, I can’t always bank a “big” story for the next day because it’s a hot agenda item because whichever board or commission may continue it to the next meeting. I’ve learned that you always need a backup and then a backup to that backup. I’m not kidding here because if something falls through no one will help you. You are on your own for story ideas. No one holds your hand through the process. Having your own story queue can be a life-raft. And I’ve had to save myself plenty of times so far.

Agenda items are short and to the point, for the most part. Some towns add a little bit more of an explanation of what it is about, while others leave it at one-word items. It’s a game. Not a game between the town and whoever looks at the agenda, but a game between yourself and what you hope to get out of each agenda item. Sometimes you don’t get anything and sometimes you have a week’s worth of stories from one meeting. It all depends.

Sometimes the opposite happens, too. A small agenda item, say a correspondence from a resident to a board, can turn into a firestorm or shed some light on something I’ve missed. That could mean a front pager or a feature story for later in the week, but the bottom line is you have to pay attention.

And when you pay attention you get all the stories you need.

Jonathan

 

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One Response to Hunting for Stories in Agendas

  1. Pingback: Plan Ahead « Just Starting Out

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