He Said What?
Here's another lesson from the really boring frontlines of real, small-time journalism.
Because I don't look good on television, I spent a lot of years toiling for a midsize daily newspaper. Like most dailies of our size, we had a deep and constant commitment to covering politics and its ugly brother, meetings. Every small town in the area received the free gift of a reporter at each and every meeting of their city council and school committee. For a lot of years, I was that reporter.
A license for a new used car lot. Road striping. The purchase of rock salt in the winter. New swings for the town's one playground.
That's what I wrote about, and proudly. The towns and the meetings were both rinky and dinky, but they decided when new school books would be bought, and who would get a stop sign on their street, and that's the way people live, rinky and dinky.
Oh, sure, every now and then you got the big story. Maybe one of the town's police officers got arrested for beating his wife, or the graduation rate up at the high school slipped a couple points, but most of the time, you wrote about the spending of relatively small amounts of money. I once wrote three stories in two weeks about people who didn't want the convenience store in their neighborhood to get a liquor license.
I learned three things.
1. It's not so much that the devil is in the details as it is that EVERYTHING is in the details.
2. If you're sick of doing research, you need to do more research.
3. Everything that glitters is not gold, and the one that hollers the loudest isn't always right.
A sure-to-lose candidate running for office in a town I was covering once brayed loudly during a debate that the town's employee health insurance program was "millions in the red." I wrote the quote down in my notebook.