Today in reporting class was lecture heaven. We got a visit from Jaqui Banaszynski, with whose work I fell in love the moment I read (and reread) her 1987 pulitzer prize-winning piece, “Aids in the Heartland” in cross cultural journalism class last year.
Her talent for making people into characters that readers latch on to within only a few words so attracted me as a writer. I wanted to tell stories as compelling as she does and, I wanted more than anything, to ask her how to do it. If I ever muster the courage, I would love to have just 30 minutes of her time to ask her all of my pressing questions.
I imagine my side of the conversation would be something like, “Hi. I am in love with your work and would love to have coffee with it, um, you to talk about it… (insert nervous, embarrassing comment here).”
Today was almost just as good as my imagined scenario. Banaszynksi talked to us about how to cover breaking news efficiently and to the best of our ability.
One thing she discussed was to have a “checklist” of things ready before embarking on any interview. This includes the somewhat obvious “Why does it matter” and the not-always-so-obvious “What else do I need?”
Banaszynski likened our reporting experiences to that of a pilot or air traffic controller. Journalists are pros at multitasking .
While the kind of work I am most interested in producing takes months to produce, the value of breaking news skills are an asset to any storyteller in the journalism profession.
This class lecture was one that will stay with me for the rest of my career and I felt so fortunate to be among someone of that caliber. I still want that half an hour.