Being a rebel comes naturally to me.
Despite my lack of tattoos and limited number of piercings, I've always gone against the grain a bit. After all, I've had a plethora of speeding tickets (I'm reformed, mostly, now), took an unconventional path through college and have been known to trot out an occasionally vicious sense of humor.
I bring all this up to mention how when it comes to being a journalist, being a rebel is not my thing.
Lessons Learned Long Ago
Way back in the day, I took a class called "News Writing and Reporting" in college. I forget my professor's name, but I remember her drilling into us several rules for being a reporter.
• Keep your opinions out of the news.
• Don't use anonymous sources. Anonymous doesn't just mean that person you won't name but also people refusing to give their names.
• Quotes are verbatim. If you didn't get it verbatim, you paraphrase the source.
Getting A Saturday Call
So, last week my wife had her birthday, my wife's best friend came to visit, and we toured the region. With all that going on, I took off a couple of days from work. But I was also listed as the Saturday reporter, so in the middle of those days off, I put in some hours Saturday writing up a story I'd done reporting on – meaning, I did the interviews a different day – about how the town of Preston is dealing with the economic slowdown due to COVID-19.
My day also potentially included a story about a march and rally in Rochester. Photographer Traci Westcott planned to take photos, and if the rally turned into a big event, she would call me to come down.
Well, about 100 or so people were there, including organizers and candidates for local office down who set up tables and passed out campaign literature. So, I got the call and came down to Mayo Park.
Breaking A Rule Or Two
So, what does this have to do with being a rebel? Well, for starters I interviewed a guy from Los Brown Berets, a Latino activist group, who only gave one name and wouldn't tell me where he was from.
And while I recorded several interviews in order to not have to write and talk at the same time, I also took notes on quotes from several speakers. These folks were not always easy to identify either, though between me and Traci we managed to get their names.
However, when I got home one of the quotes I had written down was in such poor penmanship – yes, my own – it took me five minutes to figure out what I'd written.
In the end, I only broke one rule, quoting the one-name guy. That left me a little out of my comfort zone. But it was worth it to let people speak freely, which is really a rebel thing to do.
Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.