Leading the advance

Monday evening, I’ll be going with another reporter to cover my first full-blown school board meeting. I attended a work session a few weeks ago, but after looking over the agenda for tomorrow, I get the feeling this one is going to be a lot bigger.

Another reason I suspect this: spending much of my day Friday wading through at least 30 pages of meeting notes to write an advance.

Last Friday was possibly the most document heavy story I’ve had to do so far. Basically, my task was to go through the agenda and advance meeting notes to figure out which issues were most important to report before the event actually took place. Parts of writing the story were relatively easy. The board might approve new school boundaries? Yeah, big deal. The board is going to introduce a new transfer policy? Also, clearly important. The board is going to approve the minutes from their last meeting? Probably not as important.

Other parts were a little harder to figure out. What is this list of possible contractors to install air conditioning supposed to mean? How much do people need to know about installing new windows? Things got a bit harder here. Fortunately, my assistant city editor was extremely helpful in showing me how to sort thought all the jargon and get at the important stuff.

Despite being a pretty straightforward story, this one probably gave me the most experience in figuring out how to sort out what’s important from the fluff, so to speak. I had to sort through a ton of information and summarize it in a way people could understand what they really need to know before the school board meeting. I had to figure out some very concise summaries of pages of information.

I also got a much better picture about issues that are most important to the school district I’m covering. I’ve been wrapping my head around it for the last couple of weeks, but it was good to have what basically amounted to a comprehensive list of the issues at the forefront of the board’s attention and to see everything laid out. Not only is this going to make it a lot easier to figure out what I’m listening to at the meeting Monday, but it’s also going to give me a much better grasp on what’s important to my beat.

New Story: Columbia School Board expected to vote Monday on attendance boundaries

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