On April 16 the multimedia package and story my classmate Alex Rydin and I had been working on was published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. This was my first major publishing i a while, so needless to say I was excited. The Beerline Trail was a great learning experience for me (as can be seen in my last post) left me with a lot of great stories. 

The assignment was to write a story on the Beerline Trail, which had recently been nominated for a Milwaukee Area Neighborhood Development Initiative award (MANDI) for the change it was causing in a couple of rough neighborhoods in the area. Unfortunately it wasn't in my area of the city, and was a 45 minute bus ride to get to. 

Our first meeting was with a man named Chris Grandt, who was managing the project for Riverworks Development Corp. It took us all of 15 seconds to hit our first bump in the road as I forgot to double-tap the record button on our digital reorder (after we had been warned to do so not 3 days before) and missed the first 5 minutes of our interview. Grandt gave us good material however, so we never ran into a problem.

Our next trip downtown cam a few days later when we set up a meeting with Mario Costantini. Costantini owns a furniture factory in the Riverwest and led the original purchase of the land. We also managed to run into some unusual characters on the way down, most notably a strange talkative man by the name of Roosevelt McCarter. McCarter seemed a few screws loose and was talking about how many Facebook friends he had. He also seemed very interested in where Alex and I were planning on watching the Marquette Basketball game that day, which needless to say made us a bit uncomfortable.

The interview with Costantini went off without a hitch, we got good material, but nothing that would carry the story. He even gave us images to use in our slideshow. We went out to take pictures for the multimedia portion of the piece, but unfortunately it began snowing, so we had to go back to the trail again another time to get decent photos and on trail interviews.

We went back to the trail again the next wee, but once again the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The only people in sight were on a basketball court or simply passing by on the street. No one seemed to actually be using the trail. This obviously gave us some hangups about the piece. If no one was using the trail then why was it news? We were able to get an interview from a local barber named Randy Johnson, but had to leave with only a handful of decent pictures.

Two weeks later Alex and I went back to the trail and finally got a decent day. There were people on the trail and we were able to get some fantastic photographs. We left thinking we would be able to complete and turn in our story later that week. Unfortunately we had an issue

When we interviewed Randy Johnson, I forgot to take down his information, and therefore my editors could not verify his existence. So what was left to do? The day before I left for Easter Break I went traipsing off back into Riverwest to track down the barber who gave me a 2 minute interview. Luckily this wasn't difficult. There was only 1 "R. Johnson" in the Riverwest zip code, and once the house was found so was Johnson.

Our piece was published about two weeks later. It was a good experience that featured a lot of hard knocks style learning on our part, but it was a heck of a good time.
 
 
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On  April 12 my journalism class watched a Poynter video on natural sound recording. The video lecture – entitled "Natural Sound Packages: Video Storytelling Without Reporter Narration" – featured loads of useful advice on collecting audio and getting soundbites that are great for your story. It was a fantastic informative piece that I learned a lot from, I just wish I had seen it sooner.

 For most of the semester I have been  working on two projects that heavily involve this type of audio narration. One, which will be posted later on this site, has yet to be completed. The other was just published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, who I have reviewed in the past. I am very proud of my work on the Beerline Trail story that I did with Alex Rydin, but there were certainly some hiccups that could have been avoided had I known the ins and outs of how to go about collecting audio for a story like this beforehand.

A lot of what was talked about in the Poynter Lecture was obvious, but it seems it was the obvious things that tripped me up. For example, one of the very early things that was talked about in the lecture was that you need to find a great storyteller. When Alex and I began the story our primary source of information was the project manager Chris Grandt. Mr. Grandt was knowledgeable and excited about the project, but he wasn't necessarily the best storyteller, in my opinion. He was more interested in facts, cold hard math. We did find a fantastic storyteller in Mario Costantini, but he didn't have the knowledge of the project to be able to drive the story forward. In a perfect world Mr. Grandt and Mr. Costantini would be the same person, and Alex and I would have gotten the best audio possible. The problem is that we never were able to get someone who could give us the basics. Mr. Costantini didn't really know them, and Mr. Grandt was, at times, so detail oriented that the simple basics weren't an option for him.

Of course, this may also have been my fault. I rediscovered during the lecture that asking the right questions is vitally important, which is something I did not always do. Going into the interviews I had done my research like any good journalist, and was more interested in the detail oriented questions. I never asked the big picture "So what" question right from the beginning, which would have mad mine and Alex's lives a whole lot easier when it came to editing time.

Now don't think that I ruined our story with my mistakes, because I certainly didn't. My story came out very well in the end. I just managed to make my life unnecessarily difficult for a few weeks, which I don't plan on doing again.
 

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    I'm a native Virginian who traveled to Milwaukee to study Journalism in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. 

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