Think of a Nature Documentary

Some people see reporters as like little flies buzzing around a story just bothering people with questions constantly. Apparently that’s not what we are supposed to do.

Basically what Anne Hull said was to be the camera person in a nature documentary. Just sit and watch. Don’t interfere in the action taking place. Even if the gazelle gets mauled by the lion, you just have sit back and let nature take it’s course, and that’s how we should be as reporters.

Just observe the subject in its natural environment. Don’t disrupt the action for anything. Really get on the level of the subject. I’m assuming that if they can end up forgetting you are even there then that is a great success.

To me, this is the hardest part about features. I mean, I know if I were to do a review of some place, I have to get in and experience it. I need to eat at the restaurant on a Saturday dinner service to see how well the staff are under pressure. I have to attend one of the final dress rehearsals of the play, and it would be better if the staff and I weren’t the only ones in the audience to really simulate a performance. I guess I just didn’t realize exactly how involved this process could be. Actually being on the farm as the workers and being in their conditions. Sleeping as much as they do and experiencing their travel. It is really an intense experience.

So, as a journalist, do I just need to say good bye to sleep?

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Be there and observe.

As I read pages 35-45 in “Telling True Stories,” I realized that the common trend in our readings is to be with the subject and quietly observe. As writers, we shouldn’t allow our questions to dominate in feature stories, because we can learn so much more when we silently observe and become part of the scene.

One quote stood out to me, “If the reporter can walk in another person’s shoes, why not do it?” If we can become as close to our subject possible, we will have a better understanding of our subject.

I enjoyed the tips in Anne Hull’s section “Being There.” One tip I found interesting was go to church. I have never even thought of that, but you can learn a lot about people and a community as a whole through attending church. You learn how people communicate with each other and how they dress and behave on one of the most formal places in their town. This can also give a sense of how the people feel about each other and if they are giving or not.