Flawed from the start

The Affordable Care Act was flawed from the start in Missouri, but still insured thousands

 First and foremost, working on this story was a lot of fun. At times it was stressful and frustrating, and at times I felt like I would never be able to work my way out of it, I’d never be able to fully articulate everything I’d learned and make it into a succinct and informative story. And to that end, I think I’ve still got a long way to go.
Without a doubt, I’m proud of the story I managed to put together, but I can’t help but feel like it could have been better. Whether with more reporting, more time, or simply more knowledge of the intricacies of building journalistic stories, I feel like it could have been a better creation for the reader. But, I remind myself in such moments of doubt, that that is why I am here. To learn about these very things. To learn how to manage time, to find sources, to ask the right questions, to structure the right narrative, to include the right information.
I did really appreciate the chance to get to know this story though. I feel way more confident and comfortable when I can dig deep into a story and feel certain (or mostly certain) that I am doing my readers a service by telling them what they need to know in the best possible manner — when I don’t know a subject, I worry that I can’t possibly guide them through the swamp of information.
And just generally, I love long form. I’m a huge fan of the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine and the Boston Review, so getting to participate in the creation of a bigger, more encompassing story (no matter how many thousands of words shorter it was than the journalism that I love most), was a real delight.

Bigger airplanes

This quick write up about the bigger planes being used at the regional airport was my second of Friday, which was another first. Previous to this, everything I’d done had been much more of a focused look at a single story that I used the day researching, planning, and writing. So churning out two stories, brief as they were, was new to me.

Again, it was a good learning experience to get to see the quick turn around on these types of news. It also sort of clued me into the fact that there are some reporters who know the ins and outs of the minutia of certain local goings on. The idea, for instance, that someone at another paper might have loads of context going into a sudden story like this (assuming they wouldn’t have known it was coming). It’s a bit of a naive realization, but alas. I have been continually impressed by the people I’ve seen who have had their fingers on the pulse of certain sectors of Columbia, who know the players and the context. And I think I also surprised myself with how much I know (after being here less than a year) by just reading what I do on the ice desk (and in my spare time). Obviously, the main thing I know is how much I don’t know, but I feel like I’m getting a grip on this little town, which is making reporting about it more enjoyable, and it’s making the things that happen seem ever more important to me.

Friday Fire Report

Covering this quick write up of an over night fire was my first real crack at doing a brief summarizing report of an event. Working the copy desk has given me the opportunity to read lots of these from Missourian writers before, though, so I had a general understanding of what it should look like. Then, I looked to the handy ‘questions to ask after a fire’ list hanging on the wall, which was also very helpful in steering me towards the info I needed and the structure I could build.

I think the real learning experience was the writing: the language, the diction, the structure, the intention that goes into every word (not that other writing doesn’t have such intentionality). There’s a specific jargon that has to be used with police and fire reporting, which is different than other stuff I’ve worked on, where the word choice is much more focused on being as a clear as possible for the reader. It was, for how short the piece was, certainly the most editing I’ve done with an ACE so far. So, it was a great learning experience and a good chance to experience such a prominent part of reporting. Though I do think I’m partial to getting a chance to actually fully immersing myself into a subject and getting a chance to get comfortable with the content. I like to feel confident in what I’m writing which, I know I won’t always get to do.

“Facebook Stalking”

One of the strangest things I’ve done so far this semester is certainly some good ol’ Facebook stalking. Obviously, this isn’t my first go round on the process, but in the past I’ve always perused the information of people I am at least tangentially related to (via friend or family). Which, I think is the sort of social contract Facebook users have signed up to consciously (v. all those we have unconsciously signed up to). We all expect, at least in part, to be visible to “friends of friends,” especially since Facebook provides us a setting that specifically designed to allow this. I feel like most casual users are aware of this, and okay with it, in a way, if only because your friends have been “vetted.” You trust your friends (or you should, or you want to). And thus, you expect your friends to act with the same sort of diligence: you trust them to trust their friends. (Following this theory to its end, everyone would be trust worthy, but I digress…)

But things get murky when you go after people who you don’t know and who obviously don’t know you. Facebook, of course, makes no guarantees to safeguard your information. And we all know  that we are visible, in some way, to others. But I think there is a cognitive gap (at least for me). We know it’s possible for strangers to explore our personal information. But we don’t expect it to happen to us.

Amid this internal debate, though, I know that the end to my means is of importance to the community — enough so to merit my “Facebook stalking.” Still, I can’t help but feel the eerie reality of the digital footprint we have all unwittingly created.

Another ACA Protest

For the second Friday in a row I attended a protest against the (potentially no longer) impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Since our new president has taken office, there has been, by my humble account, an uptick in political action, including marches, demonstrations and protests. As such, the Missourian (and so many other outlets) have been inundated with stories about protests. It’s easy for these stories to all begin running together.

After talking with my editor, it was decided that covering the protest as another protest story wouldn’t necessarily be in anyone’s best interest. So, being knee deep in ACA research for a handful of other stories, I spent the morning leading up to the protest putting together the foundation of the story, which included some detailed and, I think, much needed information about what had actually happened so far in terms of the ACA repeal (not much). I also worked to gather some numbers on what sort of impact the ACA has had in Missouri and what the new state budget might mean for the heavily subsidized program.

Once I got to the protest in the afternoon, I noticed that many of the participants were the same people from the event the week before (including at least one speaker).  I also didn’t want to simply find quotes to fill in the story I’d already started building, though, more or less, that’s what happened. A problem I ran into, though, was that many of those present were over 65 and no longer participating in the relevant medicaid exchange. The first few people I spoke to were most interested in protecting the “right” to health insurance for others. But, after chatting with a few people, I came across some folks who had actually had been affected by the ACA, whether they were on it, or whether a family member of their’s couldn’t afford it.

Generally speaking, it was a very similar experience to the one the week before. It was, however, much nice to go into the event prepared, with some planned questions and a bit firmer grasp on the topic at hand (obviously). It helped me, I believe, ask some much more interesting questions and dig down to a more satisfying story.