Sometimes I get overwhelmed at work. Not overwhelmed with the lack of parking in Northwest Portland, or even the amount of papers on my desk. Overwhelmed by very intelligent men and women at my work who make everything look easy, and I’m just an intern, enthusiastic but clueless.
Here, it’s easy to hide behind research all day. City financial reports, Police Bureau Use of Force policies, etc. There are columns of it at my work desk. I could literally build a fort out of all the documents and public records I’ve read, rope it off with red tape and then write my own 50-page No Grown-Ups Allowed policy. It’s the sort of thing that makes me realize why so many journalists end up going to law school: just to make sense of everything. The words all sound the same, but a trained eye knows what to look for.
I talked about documents in my first post, but learning how to dig is an entirely different skill than learning when to dig. Recently, the book Watchdog Journalism by Stephen Barry came across my desk. Amid the dictionaries, Oregon Blue Books and more dictionaries, this one caught my attention somehow. The book details strong, famous examples of prize-winning investigative reporting from unassuming rumor to full-on exposé; snowflake to avalanche.
In this book there was a report about a group of reporters who sit just a few feet from me. These pros liken themselves to catfish, sifting through junk in the riverbed for even a tiny morsel of food. One salacious rumor and trained searching through city documents eventually transformed into a story that dismantled of one of the most powerful men in Oregon’s history. I was hooked on their story, as I’d never worked up the courage to ask them about it. I grabbed the book, ran (drove) home and read it like that kid from The Neverending Story.
What I try to take from this is to be patient, and try to keep learning.