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.