Friday night ACE shift. Generally a quiet, sleepy few hours of wrapping up content in the newsroom. Tying up loose ends, handling the occasional nightside story, secretly hoping there’s no breaking news so you can go home at a reasonable hour.
Last Friday night: a call about several firetrucks at a downtown bar and grill, a reporter sent to find out what happened, a short evacuation due to haze, a brief with a soft news lede and enough time on our hands to think it through.
John Heimos had just ordered a turkey bacon club sandwich with fries and a side of honey mustard when six firefighters walked into Shiloh Bar & Grill and ordered the patrons to evacuate Friday evening.
I liked the lede. It was interesting. It was detailed. It told a story. No one had been hurt. The evacuation was over in a snap.
But I was nervous.
It wasn’t a soft news story. It was a brief about an evacuation. Was a soft lede really the right call?
The reporter wanted the lede. The name “Edna Buchanan” was tossed around.
I liked the lede. But I was nervous. I could already hear the possible repercussions: other editors pushing back against my choice, making the story into something more than it was, not doing justice to what actually happened.
But we both liked the lede. So I talked to the news editor on duty, and we agreed that it worked. And the lede about the customer with the sandwich and fries went live.
Monday, my editor mentioned that the story had been discussed in budget: The soft lede was the right call. We took a risk, and it paid off.
Her advice: Sometimes, you can go with your gut and take a risk.
I’m not really one to risk. A knock-off Myers Briggs test informs me that I am a “J” — I like rules, guidelines, structure. Not risk. It took me until something like 21 years old to learn to ride a bike, for crying out loud.
I want to do things in ways I know for sure will work, to rely on habitual certitude as a substitute for trusting my gut when my gut tells me there might be something better.
Often, that certitude works just fine. But sometimes, the right bit of risk on top of it makes a tangible difference. Sometimes, trusting myself is more important than trusting my comfort zone or my habits.
Risk, in the right places, can pay off.
And sometimes, risk is worth it.