Everything was the Dubuque County Fair, and nothing hurt

When I showed up at the TH back at the beginning of June, one of the first things I learned is that covering the Dubuque County Fair is something of an intern tradition and that the week of the fair would be chock-full of me running around the fairgrounds writing stories.

They weren’t understating. In five days of work, I wrote seven stories about the Dubuque County Fair.

At the beginning of the week, I came into work with a set of assignments that sent me out to the fairgrounds for a few hours each day. I worked strange hours, ate ate at weird times, consumed too much post-work, late-night McDonalds and produced a few clips that I’m actually pretty proud of.

I think one of the things I took away from the week was learning to push my reporting a little bit further, even when I’m tired and would rather just throw a story together and be done with it. I had a lot of fun covering the fair, but on on days like Friday, when I woke up at 4:30 a.m. knowing that after a few hours of work in the morning, I’d be taking a late night shift as well, I had to remind myself that doing quality work matters just as much as getting the work done.

For example, on that Friday night, I was assigned to cover one of the headlining concerts at the fair. My editor had asked me the day before to try and find a way to cover the fair that was more than just “people came to the concert and were really excited to see this band and that’s it.” After bouncing around some ideas with another reporter, I went into my interviews with a different mindset than just asking, “So, what brings you out here tonight?”

While some of my interviews were fairly standard, I managed to find a couple of people with really interesting stories. Looking back at what I wrote, I feel like I could have executed it a little better, maybe with more detail and more work to really describe the people and who they were. But I also made some good extra efforts to go beyond what I might have normally done if I’d just gone into haphazardly cover the event. And overall, I’m pleased with the results.

While I’m always my own worst critic, and I’m already thinking about ways the stories I wrote last week could have been better, I do have to say that my work to push my reporting a little further helped improve the stories I covered. I covered a troop of Boy Scouts cleaning up the fairgrounds at 6 in the morning, and I did my best to work in some extra description and detail. I was asked to come up with my own fair feature, and I steered away from event coverage and to write a story about longtime fair volunteers. I did a “by the numbers” piece and spent the day chasing down people to ask them how many lemons were bought for the lemonade stand and how many kids entered the pedal pull. I covered a country music competition, and managed to chat with one contestant long enough to focus the story on him, giving the final product more flow and coherency.

So yes, I’m a little worn out after last week, and I’m hoping its a little while before I have to smell a the mixture of fried foods and the 4-H barns again, but on the whole, I enjoyed the work I did. I pushed my reporting a little further, and I worked to apply the lessons I’ve been learning this summer, and in the end, I wound up with at least a couple of clips I’d consider showing off if I needed to.

Week 8 summary: Dubuque County Fair stories — coverage of the 4-H/FFA show, coverage of a concert aimed at young people/families (apparently new to the fair this year), fair “by the numbers” alternative story format, feature on longtime fair volunteers, Boy Scout Fair cleanup, coverage of the headlining concert for the week, coverage of a country music singing competition, two Ask the TH questions plus clarifying an older one, work on a tech column slated to run next week


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