Chase’s thoughts on collaboration

Wednesday’s ridealong feature prompted a lot of discussion in the newsroom about working as a team. Here are some of Reporter Chase Webster’s thoughts on collaboration with Photographer Rasy Ran:

Chase Webster, police reporter

Tuesday morning I had the opportunity to work with Rasy Ran for the feature in Wednesday’s paper titled To Serve and Protect. We met at the police station at 8 a.m. and sat on a couch in the lobby for an hour before we were assigned an officer to follow on a ridealong. I came armed with a notepad, and Rasy lugged around three cameras and an audio recorder. Our collaboration set the tone for the story and supplemental material.

During our time with Officer Marcus Epps, Rasy kept the tape recorder planted on the front seat of the cruiser while we rode in the back. He switched between the three cameras, catching video for webcast, as well as images for the paper and online slideshow. I knew the quality of the finished story would be dependent on how well the visual aspects and writing fit together as a single cohesive unit, so I took mental notes as well as physical notes as to what seemed to catch Rasy’s eye during the ride along.

When we returned to the office, before I began writing the story, I collected my notes and compared them with the images Rasy wanted to use for the slideshow and the paper. Fortunately, he found the front-page photo relatively quickly and we built from there. There was a moment during the ride along in which Epps was confronted by a vehicle’s passenger at a traffic stop that really stuck in my mind as something that I wanted to write in the story, and Rasy’s photo seemed to capture the moment perfectly. From there I was able to set the tone because I knew what was most likely to be packaged with the story before even writing a word.

While writing, I continually checked out Rasy’s progress and what he had in mind for the article. There were several quotes that were used in both the story and the audio, and Rasy allowed me to make sure that they were consistent and accurate. At the same time, Rasy was able to use my notes and perspective for information to be used in both the cut-lines and the audio slideshow.

All in all, it was really a team effort. It was the first time I was able to write a story with an idea of how it could look and feel before putting the words on the page, and it showed in the writing. The interaction between the two of us gave life to the story in a way I wouldn’t have been able to capture without his being there throughout the whole process.

On some of my past stories a photographer has been assigned without any knowledge of story content and they don’t always fit together. The quality of the package is greatly improved with that interaction, though. Even if, as a writer, you’re not there with the photographer to see what they have captured, in most cases it’s still possible to meet with them before it goes to print. It’s a good step to take.

Be sure to know what the design team is working on, the photographers, and even the webcast team. Make sure that what they’re saying about your story fits with what your working on, and know what content might be used to enhance your work before you bring it to your editor. A great package can make a good story better.

Thanks, Chase, for sharing how you and Rasy worked together. See the final project here.


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