Coming full circle (sort of)

After the last month or so at the TH being something of an exhausting whirlwind, I got the chance to slow down just a bit this week to catch up on some stories I’d neglected from earlier in the summer and to get my bearings for my last week of reporting (which starts Monday — crazy, I know).

With that time to sort out what I can do in the next week, I went back with one of my editors and picked out a couple of stories I’d been assigned earlier in the summer that didn’t have strict deadlines and had been swept away in a rush of deadlines. I worked on a couple of stories I’d been assigned for the features department and did some preliminary research for the pieces I’ll be tackling next week.

It’s kind of funny, going back to stories that were handed to me back toward the beginning of the summer (a couple were also given to me more recently, though). It makes my summer feel strangely rounded out to be going back to things I was assigned when my head was still spinning and I felt like I was still asking a billion questions a day. Fortunately, now that I’m nine weeks wiser, I feel better prepared to handle some of the pieces I’ll be taking on in the coming days.

My summer was nicely rounded out this week by the reoccurrence of the story that marked my start at the TH. On my first day, I wound up making a call to the Iowa Department of Transportation for a brief about a construction project on a major bridge. Once we made the call, we realized the piece merited a full story. So I spent my first week breaking down some different options the DOT was considering for closing the bridge during construction, and how that construction might affect people served by the bridge. The next week I covered a public meeting where the DOT sought input on the best way to close the bridge.

On Tuesday, my editor asked me to make a call to the DOT to see if a decision had been reached. I found out that the DOT had, in fact, decided how it was going to close the bridge during construction, so I put together a story in a couple of hours that afternoon for the next day’s paper. Then on Wednesday, I came in with a story idea in mind to follow up more specifically on how the closure might affect area residents and businesses, so I spent the day driving around in my car, knocking on doors and poking my head into businesses to put together a story by the end of the day.

I guess I tell that story because it was kind of cool to see how I’d grown from when I first started at the TH until now. When we learned that the DOT had picked a closure option, I knew all the background and contacts I needed to get the story together in fairly short order. Then, with the knowledge I had, I was able to enterprise a story the next day that I’m actually fairly proud of. One of the things I enjoy about reporting is building something of an offhand expertise in really unusual areas. In my case, right now that area is road construction projects.

I guess it’s just nice to be able to look back on that early story and to see that I’ve grown in my own command of information and confidence in my reporting. It reminds me that even when I get frustrated with myself or wish I’d done better on a piece, I’m still growing. And in the end, for now, that’s the main thing that matters.

Week nine summary: Produced a follow-up story on the DOT’s bridge construction decision, enterprised a piece about the potential impacts of that construction, covered shoppers and stores taking advantage of Iowa’s annual tax holiday, reported on a concert featuring old area rock bands that raised money for a local organization, finished a tech column that was published later in the week, contributed to a story about area farmland lease informational meetings, finished a piece previewing a local ski resort’s winter season for the features department, worked on another ski resort preview for features, completed two Ask the TH questions,  produced a brief about a reported apparent drowning in the area, researched for stories I’ll be working on next week.

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