Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Surviving tough stories, and just dumb luck

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After the stories I wrote in the last two days, a piece about a lawsuit to block an initiative would seem to be a piece of cake. But there's word you should never use when referencing any writing. I do so here, very advisedly, to make the point.

The word? Easy.

Every time I say that word, the whole thing goes to hell so fast I can't focus. So in an hour or so, when the attorneys make their way into their offices with their lattes, I will call to check, doublecheck and then call back again to write a 300-word lawsuit story that has to be bulletproof and be full of case citings.

The budget story I labored over for hours yesterday passed muster and my learning curve was straight up before it was over, a wild ride that gave me that tinge of a headache you get from reading the agate type in the sports section. But the best part was stumbling onto a news nugget in casual conversation with one of the sources - something I had missed entirely about costs going up for poor people. And it was a scoop - something no other news organization seems to have spotted. I can be smug in the next few weeks when they do and write stories.

The dumb luck is because I had finished the piece and was just doublechecking a couple of minor facts when I found out the major policy shift had been approved (but not announced) and so my lukewarm story turned hot, and my new editors were likely impressed with my journalistic tenacity.

In other words, I fell into it. Pretty easy.


OP-ED OF THE DAY - Congress is looking into nuclear power again. I know, I know... But considering what happened in the past (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl) a recap with the costs we're are still paying for the nuclear power experiments of the 60s and 70s would be interesting. These will meet with some resistance for placement from newspaper editors. The old editors still aren't convinced nuclear power was a problem and the young ones don't have a clue what you might be talking about. But just focus on the cost factors: how much are paying now to clean up the plants - and to store all that nuclear waste. It's a lot, amigos.