Assistant News Editor Edna Horton shares her notes from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association state convention. Thanks, Edna!
“This was my first major journalism conference I have attended since I started college. I had heard from fellow classmates and colleagues that TIPA was a good conference to attend and that I would learn a lot of useful information, I wasn’t disappointed.
Mark Collette of The Corpus Christi Caller-Times was reporting a story about a closed navy base next to an island near Corpus called Ingleside on the Bay. While he was there, he found out that a group of people in golf carts with cameras were following around one of the residents. Ingleside on the Bay is a retirement community, and Collette, curious about the golf carts, knocked on the door of the man they were following to find out what was going on.
What resulted was the story of Mark Rathbun, a former member of the Church of Scientology. The people in golf carts were members of the church who were doing a documentary on Rathbun and, at times, some of the confrontations became hostile.
Collette said one of the biggest problems he had with this story was not letting the source direct the story. He said the real story was how the community was supporting Rathbun, even though these people in golf carts were essentially disrupting the entire community.
His tip was don’t let your source lead your story. Collette said he could have made this a blistering report on how awful the Church of Scientology was, but that wasn’t the story. The real story was how the community came together to support Rathbun, who had only lived in Ingleside on the Bay for a very short time.
That was the most important thing I took from Collette’s session. There are many, many times where I have been, and I’m sure everyone else has been, heavily influenced by a source we talk to for a story. I think the important thing especially with something this big is to take a step back, look at all of your notes and make sure you are getting the real story and not the one your source wants you to have.
Thanks, Edna! Folks, comment below.