Monday, July 18, 2011
A Case of Hometown Blues
Still not sure if it is for you? Here are the first couple of paragraphs.
“HEY, MALONE. HOW can we expect to get a Pulitzer in this backwater?”
I wanted to roll my eyes. I had been nominated for the top prize in investigative journalism twice, but never won. My topic for this seminar to a sister newspaper’s staff was finding big stories and working sources. However, Biff and Bob, I think that’s what they said their names were, heckled me just for kicks.
This routine was familiar. I’d been known to do it when I was required to attend a seminar or two in the past. The rest of the afternoon was going to be painful, if I didn’t stomp on these two and fast.
I didn’t do painful. I was an award-winning journalist who covered the crime beat. I was immensely qualified to lead this seminar after receiving national headlines on a story in each of the last two years.
When a Mitch Malone exclusive ran, the advertisers ponyed up for weeks afterwards and circulation rose making my editor and publisher happy in a business that struggled to survive. I was asked to talk to other newspapers in the chain to encourage them to get bigger stories and edge the bottom line into black. I didn’t like it, but didn’t have a choice.
“When was the last time one of your stories made it on the wire?” I challenged the fresh-faced kid a couple of years out of college.
Bob looked at his shoes. Chair legs scraped against the floor as everyone in the room straightened their backs in the small conference room. I looked down the fake wood-grain table that had room for a couple more bodies. Now I had their attention and the sun pulled from behind a cloud and brightened the pale yellow walls.
“What makes a good story great and launches it into the wire services is the attention to detail. Not only creating a picture with your words, but using quotes to convey emotion. You have to work with your police departments, sources and your witness to have conversations with you in order to get at the depth of emotion in a story.” I thought I had them now.
“Yeah, but what terrorists come to Flatville to train for a mission? You can see for miles.” This from another irritant.
“Good and even great stories aren’t found under rocks.” Although I wanted to throw a few stones at the voice, I think was Biff. “Good stories are hard work and require investigation and talking to a lot of people, not just a single source.”
I was back in control again. “I could have just gone with the double homicide story and moved on to the next burglary, but I wouldn’t have been nominated for a Pulitzer for that. You have to develop a sense when something doesn’t seem right. You need to push a little harder.”
“You need to become wanted for murder and go into hiding.”
Also, if you read the book, it would be great if you would post a review or comment on Barnes and Noble or Amazon, or Goodreads.com or other places. I need to get more people to read the books. Thanks for all your help! Enjoy Mitch!