Monday, October 19, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: Stop Assuming Already

Max Resnik

Monday’s report should have been an assignment to simply get to know my community better. Given the story idea, I expected to be successful because I had done virtually the same topic for a different area of Athens County just days prior. I assumed members of the Nelsonville business community would be just as receptive to questions about how road construction affects business as the business community members in The Plains. That was not at all the case. I also figured I'd be in Nelsonville merely an hour, return to the newsroom, pick my interview segments, write the story, and still have time to enjoy an easy morning prior to the noon newscast.

What I assumed was not at all the reality that I discovered on this assignment. The Nelsonville business owners were just as friendly as those in The Plains, and they were just as inviting.

Were they as receptive to the questions I posed to them?
Yes and no.

Is that a knock on the people of Nelsonville?
Absolutely not.

My experience led me to infer that the situation in Nelsonville is perhaps more dire for the businesses there than the ODOT construction taking place in The Plains. An end is in sight for the people living and working just off Route 33 on your way out of Athens. For business owners in Nelsonville, construction has not even begun.

What I Learned
Business owners in Nelsonville do believe business will be affected. From even the shortest responses to the questions I asked, a gas station employee, the managers of a car dealership and a windshield replacement company, all agree that only certain businesses would be affected by the new 33 bypass.

Who is going to be affected? According to Caroline Prudich of Fruth's Pharmacy it's the specialty shops and perhaps the restaurants.

My Time in Nelsonville
As I mentioned earlier, I assumed I'd be in Nelsonville for about an hour or so. In actuality, I was there for about four hours. I surveyed business after business in search of something that every journalist looks for: the perfect interview segment--what we call the 'soundbite'. You’re sure when you have it and you’re sure when you don’t. At times I felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway, and for what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time, I searched for my SOT (sound on tape).

“It couldn’t get worse than it already is,” blurted the manager of one of the used car lots in Nelsonville. It was a great byte. It also came after explaining to me that he did not want to do an interview and that he figured no other car lot operators, as he termed them, would. I told him that he was my third stop at a Nelsonville used car lot.

So I hit the used car lots. I also hit two local restaurants, a furniture store, a glass company, two gas stations, a pharmacy, a grocery store and hardware store. If you’re a journalist you know exactly what I am talking about here.

In the end
It is clear; once again as I have written before, assumption will never work in this journalism business. It is certain that I will go after the same fundamental stories many times in my career and I could perhaps serve to report on the cause and effect of construction on business again this year.

It is also clear that I need to adapt. Perhaps if I had posed my questions differently, I could have gotten some responses worth noting. Perhaps it was just the fact it was a Monday and Mondays are, well, Mondays.

As a result of this experience, I understand the necessity of leaving judgments and notions at the door. Each time I go out for a story there is something unique. Whether that uniqueness lies in the people I get to interact with or the setting around my camera, I can appreciate the little nuances that come with every story. I have to. I’m a journalist.

Related Links:
State Route 682 Construction Info
New State Route 33 Bypass Info

Stories on Athens area construction:
Athens MidDay Web Story
From The Athens News
682 Construction Story from The Athens Messenger

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