Wick Communications

Here it comes on the calendar

In Ideas on August 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm

school

In Wahpeton, N.D., reporter Matthew Liedke reported on a parent-led initiative to change the starting time for the school year. He quotes parent Linda Striebel: “We know that there are a lot of rural schools that don’t have air conditioning. They are ready for the winter months but not for August.”

In Pierre, S.D., writer David Rookhuyzen reported from McKinley and Washington elementary schools. “… This wasn’t just the first day back at school. It was the last first day. Both schools are being closed at the end of the year to make way for a new school being built in northeast Pierre.”

In both locations, reporters accepted the considerable challenge of presenting a cyclical story in a new way. Reporting on annual events can seem like a scene from the movie “Groundhog Day.” Street fairs, back-to-school days, holiday coverage … it can be maddeningly difficult to come up with a fresh angle from year to year. Congratulations to both David and Matthew for finding their innovative ways to approach the new school year. …

If you think about it, the back-to-school problem is probably easier to tackle than the annual festival or Christmas coverage or many other annual events. That is because you probably have a reporter who has the education beat. She already knows about new principals, building projects, new state standards, etc. There are probably a wealth of back-to-school angles to make your coverage fresh in 2014.

It’s more difficult to gin up something different for, say, the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. This granddaddy of them all dwarfs everything else in our town in October and sometimes it seems like we’ve already covered every sharp angle of the round pumpkin. It’s enough to drive this editor out of his, um, gourd.

So what do you do? I suggest you keep an eye on these big things all year long. Talk to the new chairman, walk the parade route, look at the permits. In other words, the answer is to treat these recurring stories as part of someone’s beat. Easier said than done and perhaps it has occurred to you before. I just wanted to note the different ways Wick papers covered the new school year and suggest how that might inform coverage of other things that happen like clockwork.

Clay

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