Monday, June 14, 2010

Viral Deadlines

When I was a cub reporter at the Cortez Journal the fastest story I ever researched and wrote took about 25 minutes to complete. It was a story about the first horses in our areas that were diagnosed with West Nile Virus in 2003, the same year we saw our first human cases of the deadly disease.

The news tip came in right before deadline and I don't think I've had to write something under that kind of pressure ever since. However, today the teachers in the ASNE Reynold's Institute experienced similar pressure when our teacher Steve Elliot put together a recreation of a news event that left 34 journalism teachers on their own to uncover a number of important facts in less than an hour. We had to rely on our interview skills and the time seemed to slip by faster than hour glass used in a game of Boggle.

During the recreation we had to go to five different people who were acting out scripted parts of people involved in a high profile explosion at the "Anytown" court house. Each person -- from a victim's attorney to a Vietnam vet obsessed with his wacky-week-selling neighbor -- had to be "cracked" with a different interviewing technique and ability to ask the correct questions.

This practice was a great experience and helped me remember that great feeling of being able to uncover important details during a very limited time frame.

I can’t wait to take this lesson back to my classroom because it will really help get across to students the need for accuracy -- while writing on a tight deadline.


  1. Nate,

    This was truly a great exercise as you mentioned. I think it will really help the kids with getting the right information and getting it in a timely fashion. I am going to use it also although I may edit it down a bit to make it a bit easier for them and shorter given the class periods.

    Kellie Wagner
    Hartford Journalism & Media Academy
    Hartford, Conn.

  2. It'll probably work during my class time. We have 135 minute periods because of our four day school week.

  3. WOW! A four day week. How are you liking that?