ASNE Chapter 1: Deadline Writing

I have to admit, I wasn’t quite sure what deadline reporting was going into this section. It didn’t seem like it would be that different from beat reporting; surely everything besides an enterprise story is deadline writing. But I guess this makes a little more sense now; these are more narrative accounts. They’re stories written on deadline. They’re full, deep pieces that bring the stories to life, rather than just report what’s going on. They make the audience feel like they’re actually a part of the action, rather than a cold witness. And that’s not just covering a beat—that’s writing a true narrative on a time constraint.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe it’s simpler than that. But then again, maybe not. I don’t know how else to distinguish it. But what I do know is this: these stories would be nothing without the deep reporting that was done for each one. I can’t imagine what the notebooks of these reporters looked like. It’s obvious that these were people who have done this long enough that they knew exactly how they were going to have to write the story—they knew exactly what the news angle was, what was going on and how they would tie that in—so they paid attention to the details. They looked for reasons to make the audience care about what was going on, to put them in the moment. Cramer put Americans in the position of Israeli Jews, made Americans feel like there was no difference between them. LaPeter made a court reporting story a heart-wrenching story of family loss that didn’t quite make the killer out to be such the bad guy, but rather illustrated the intense sadness that surrounded the decision. These aren’t details that the average reporter is writing down. They were very much right when they said in the book that these stories can tell the meaning behind the news. They give the audience the how and the why by providing scenes, emotions, details. These are what people really want to know, because a cold account about a man being sentenced to lose his life really can’t be effective. It won’t make people know what actually happened in that court room. The average story about a terrorist strike in Israel isn’t going to have the same power as telling this family’s story.

I think overall, it’s just massively impressive that these stories were completed in the time that they were. I can’t imagine sitting down to write something as difficult as any of these stories in the small amount of time you have in one evening to file a story. That might be what deserves the most praise. But, then again, you just have to do it. When you have a hard story, there’s nothing else you can do because when you’re going to write it, you have to dive deep. You have to completely immerse yourself in that story and make sure it gets all on the page, start to finish, right then, because otherwise, you won’t be able to maintain the feeling you want. It has to be fresh in your head. So it makes sense that these journalists could do that, it just takes a massive amount of poise. And it takes the knowledge of a veteran reporter to take down the right details and start writing the narrative in your head before sitting down to file the story.

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