One of the more difficult things about trying to write articles for people other than myself is the amount of time it takes. Working with an editor is a challenge but one that I think has helped me figure out what exactly I’m doing and how it can translate into a real world piece which other people might care to read and find interesting or worthwhile. It helps that my editor Keith is talented, patient, understanding and a close friend.
The time it takes to think up a solid idea and have this validated by an editor is already double my usual approach to writing. Actually the thinking up an idea is already pushing the boundaries of my usual writing style. Anyways, add onto getting validation and ideas for clarity the process of collecting information and verifying that with additional sources. Time consuming in the best of circumstances and horrific when part of the research is learning everything you can about what you’re trying to write. Then throw in needing to solicit additional information from sources, taking that information and integrating it into your narrative, convincing your editor it’s necessary to include such source material, and then going back and cleaning up the mess you made.
That’s how far I got with this article on an interesting court hearing in San Francisco. Obviously you should read it on Wired so computers can tally my worth, but to summarize a photojournalism student lost his subject in a shooting, refused to cooperate with police on the grounds he was a journalist, then had his apartment searched under warrant and property seized. The city defended its actions by saying a student does not a journalist make. The student’s lawyers called bullshit.
So back in early June I caught a short article in the Chronicle about the first hearing of arguments. Read a couple brief blurbs, ran the idea by Keith, got in touch with one of the student’s lawyers and tried to get in touch with the lawyer representing the city. Learned when the next hearing was, wrote the entire back story and had it ready to post as soon as results came in.
Then the next hearing was delayed a week due to scheduling conflicts. I tried to get in touch with the DA’s lawyer again. Then the hearing was delayed another two weeks. I tried to get in touch with the DA’s lawyer again. I tried to get the DA’s press office to talk to me. I sat around and twiddled my thumbs and waited for the hearing to finally happen.
Last Wednesday I sat by the computer at work hoping to hear back from the student’s lawyer. I waited past lunchtime and finally ran off for a quick espresso, then returned to a message saying he was free from court. Later than expected. I called him up, heard the results, asked a couple quick questions, then started hustling on the last write-up for the article. I posted the draft and made mention of this on an internal Wired message board, just about the same time Keith announced he was out of the office. The next day it took me past lunch to check in which is where we both realized he hadn’t seen my message and didn’t realize I was done. Just in time for him to be leaving town for the weekend.
And so it goes. But Wired isn’t a news service, and regardless of how worked up I get around anything that resembled a news piece they can’t really accommodate my overly-caffeinated and off-hours ways. But it’s up, Keith found a good graphic to use, and I can move on to trying another article for another subject I know nothing about. We’ll see how long that takes me.