Prompt: What are the benefits and challenges you are experiencing as you report a story project as part of a team (i.e., how are things going with your group and your project)? And what might you do differently next time?
Sorry for the hiatus folks, life kind of got in my way in the past couple weeks.
On to the subject of team reporting.
In what I’m sure is not an unpopular view, I tend to like to do reporting on my own. I also like to do most things on my own, which I’m sure drives the former. However, I’ve had some wonderful team reporting and project experiences, which I will briefly recap before moving on to my current team project.
• In my sophomore year, I took a class called Cross Cultural Journalism. Know for it’s massive end-of-the-year-group project, the class had a reputation of being a lot to juggle — and even hellish if you had the “wrong” team. I was lucky. My group, made up of seemingly disparate members, worked well together right of the bat. I think this was because we all had the same goal for this project: get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible.
We all agreed on our plan going forward, divvied up the work, and met our pre-determined deadlines. None of us were best friends afterward, but we all respected each other and each other’s time, so it was successful.
• During my first semester at the Missourian, I had an education-school-board-beat partner-in-crime, Bridget Kapp. We knew each other beforehand, but quickly grew closer over the semester. We covered meetings together sometimes, and other times split up a week’s worth of work to make sure we could cover all our bases for school board meetings, committee meetings, redistricting meetings and election activities. I’m fairly certain we either spoke, emailed or texted at least once a day, and that communication with each other and with our editor made the partnership run smoothly. It helped to have a person to vent to, commiserate with, and brainstorm with.
Working with Bridget was also the first time I ever had to figure out how to co-write an article. Our best effort was a longer piece on census results and boundary lines. I remember sitting with her on the Thursday before Thanksgiving break about two years ago working through quotes, explanatory grafs and crafting the right lede. It’s not easy sharing a story like that, but we made it work, and I think the strong coverage from our beat-within-a-beat that semester really showed how well the partnership went.
• For a short time two summers ago, I cowrote stories with a colleague of mine, Janet Cho, at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I was the catch-all GA reporter, and one of her beats was centered around consumers, so when the summer 2012 drought came along and meant bad news for farmers and grocers alike, we took up a joint effort. Janet is a pro and a wonderful writer, and I learned a lot during those few stories about how to weave information together into a unified piece. She also had a knack for topping the stories with a snappy lede. Even though our work was shared, she kindly let me take the web byline for my portfolio, and her graciousness was another important lesson. I enjoyed the reporting a lot, and it was very helpful to have someone to bounce ideas about sourcing off of as well as someone to edit with before we had to go to our section editor. It taught me how to collaborate on a tight deadline, which isn’t something I got to do quite as often at the Missourian once I finished covering the school board.
Currently, I’d say my team is chugging along pretty well. We all have solid journalism backgrounds and are confident in our skills to report out and produce our story. We are all also committed to the project and to doing it to the best of our abilities. I think, however, we might all be cut from similar cloth — willing to take the lead in the group, but when faced with other leaders, we shy away from making more pointed decisions.
If we had started out by laying all of our thoughts on the table beforehand and not been so worried about stepping on toes, we might have had an easier time planning out the trajectory for the project. It’s important that team members can speak freely, and I think all too often we fall into passive-aggressive communications that do more harm than good. I can only speak for myself, but I know that’s something I struggle with — not wanting to stir the pot, so I stay quiet and regret it little by little later on.
Overall, however, I think we’ve realized when we need to speak up, and now our work has pepped up noticeably. We have a plan moving forward, and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product take shape.