Saint City News

RECAP: my seventeenth week at a small newspaper

Monday August 25 to Friday August 29th:

So this is it, my last blog recap of my last week working at the place where I’ve spent the last 4 months.

This week was crazy!

The sports reporter went on vacation at the end of last week leaving all of his sports related duties to be picked up by the remaining reporter: me, the other news reporter, and the editor.

Sports!

I had never written a sports story in my life, and I really didn’t mind.

But this week I wrote my first sports story and… well it was an experience.

The game was soccer, my editor knew I had some interest / knowledge in soccer (as opposed to rugby or football or hockey, well I know some stuff about hockey I guess…) and decided to give me the women’s soccer game Wednesday night at 6:30.

First of all, getting to the game was a challenge unto itself. It was unbelievable how the street numbers made no sense! The game was in Edmonton and I know how to navigate Edmonton addresses, so I was shocked when I tried to turn on 142 St from Yellowhead Trail, only to be met with a winding road that led me back to Yellowhead Trail! What the heck?!

So I drove over to the next exit, which was St. Albert Road, which would roughly be I’d say 130-something Street, drove up to a main Avenue and turned LEFT, to go back to 142 St.

IT WENT FROM ST. ALBERT ROAD TO 149TH STREET TO 156TH STREET! There was no 142 street turn in or sign, anywhere!

WHAT?!

So I had to swing around, drive back the main avenue, found a 142 St that had a Left Turn, and finally made it to the field – BUT HONESTLY THE ROAD SYSTEM MADE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. How was there a 142 St at Yellowhead, but then the 142 street from the other avenue was a gazillion blocks East of the Yellowhead 142?! STUPID, STUPID, STUPID.

Sorry, that was long and I guess an unnecessary rant but, needless to say I was panicked because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to find the field or that I would miss the start of the game or something along the lines of failure.

I didn’t though, I got there 15 minutes before the game started (largely due to my leaving early to ensure that in case traffic and WRONG street signs delayed me) and talked to the team’s coach, asking him if I could ask him a few questions after the game and look at the game sheet (to get the player’s names).

A summary of my experience watching/covering a soccer game.

It’s not very fun.

Even though I don’t have an interest in sports, if I’m at a sports game strictly for entertainment purposes with friends or something, I’ll have fun watching the game. Covering a sports game for work? It was, well, work.

I had to keep track of what time it was, making note of the time whenever someone scored or did a move that might be worth a mention in the story.

I had to make sure to see what the number was on everyone’s backs who scored or tried to score or made notable moves.

I had to constantly keep watch and make notes and then juggle trying to take decent pictures (I didn’t end up getting anything worthy for the paper anyway) and then making sure I knew which player was in the picture (there was one picture I took where I had no idea who the player was) and all of those, along with the fact that the weather decided to choose that night to be windy and extremely cold, made the whole experience not to my liking at all.

I mean it was definitely an experience, but I wouldn’t be able to cover sports as my preferred beat (remember entertainment is my preferred beat!)

The idea of going from game to game, jotting down notes and times and looking to see who is doing what and if there’s a penalty and why and so much more of that— no interest!

I got back to the office at about 8:40 PM ish and immediately started writing. I finished at about 9:20 and left at about 9:30 which was a half hour earlier than I was expecting to leave.

All in all it was an experience.

I experienced true deadline writing for the first time as Wednesday nights are when we lay out the pages and Thursday we go to press so I HAD to write the story that night.

And I experienced what it was like to cover a sports game.

I am not necessarily proud of the story I wrote. There was little “color” in it and all I really did was be very chronological. ‘In the 5th minute bla bla, then in the 40th minute bla bla, but by the 75th minute, bla bla’

I know I’m supposed to write a sports story this year for school, so I’m glad I did at least have this experience to look back on when the time comes. Then again before we do the sports story we’ll be given notes about how to write a sports story and things like that, which should make the process easier. I basically just threw myself into the chronological thing because I figured that made the most sense.

The other news reporter told me for my first sports story it wasn’t that bad, and she advised me to use one of the coach’s comments up high next time, which I probably should have known to do because you always want a quote up high and for some reason I didn’t use one until near the end for this story. Sports writing nerves got to me I suppose!

But yeah, overall, it was a good experience even though I didn’t like it, I learned a lot, and I’m able to say I dabbled into the Sports Beat!

Another beat that I dabbled into this week was City Council!

My editor wanted me to get to try everything at the paper, which technically I guess I have now… I’ve done news, I’ve done a MOB (Business report), I’ve done arts and entertainment, I did Sports, and the last beat would be city council! Check, check, check, check!
Again with sports, the city council beat is not something I would want to be cover. But at least it was warm inside the council chambers.

The meeting started at 4:00 and ended at 8:30!

I know, long.

And boring.

But it was interesting to see how council worked. By worked I mean, how everyone has to talk ‘through’ the mayor. For instance, If a councillor had a question for the person presenting, he’d say ‘Through you mayor, * asks the question* ‘ and then the person presenting had to reply by saying ‘Through you mayor, * answers the question * ‘ or ‘ Yes mayor * answers the question * ‘ even though the mayor didn’t ask the question. And they said ‘Thank you mayor ‘ a lot. It was REALLY formal. I mean I had sat in on a council meeting for school last year, and they used the same type of formalities, but I had kind of forgotten. Also at this meeting I got to sit in the little press area, which was neat.

Another thing about the council meeting was that the acoustics in the council chamber is terrible! My recorder still worked but it was really echo-ey and some words would be lost in the … I don’t even know, the sound of the air? Whatever it was, it was loud and so the other news reporter, who I went with, told me to take down notes because you can’t depend on a recorder in there.

I did take down notes and that confirmed to me that 1) my writing is SO messy when I’m frantically trying to write, 2) I can’t write as fast as they speak, and 3) if I had my laptop I would be able to type the notes and I know for sure that 1) the writing wouldn’t be messy on a laptop, and 2) I KNOW I can type as fast as people speak so that would not be a problem.

The other council reporter from the other paper brings his laptop and he was typing while I glanced over occasionally in a yearning manner.

All in all, again it was not a fun experience but it was a good experience and I’m glad I did it. I ended up writing 2 council stories out of it, which I think turned out pretty decent.

In total this week, I wrote 8 stories! 8! My all-time high. Technically I wrote 10 but 2 of them were just re-writes of news releases that didn’t have any extra work (calling up people for further statements, etc) because my editor just wanted extra stuff in case we were short stories for the week.

So yeah, 8 stories. It was a great week for experience, I have to say.

Got the story idea, came up with questions, made phone calls, interviewed, transcribed interviews, wrote the story. That was the routine. I mean that’s always the routine but this week there were no breaks in between (minus lunchtime!) When I was waiting for someone to call me back, I was transcribing different interviews or writing another story.

In my mind I felt like this is how it would be if I worked at a daily paper.

I also found this week that my phone calls got a lot more comfortable.

I’m still doing the um’s which I really can’t seem to stop doing because it just sounds so rude when I don’t add a Um-break in between question/answers!

The other news reporter doesn’t say um and she let me listen to her recording for an interview with the mayor this week and listening to it, it just sounds awkward! Well maybe it was just her, because while she didn’t say Um, she didn’t go right into the next question either, she let a very noticeable pause occur in between conversation, like ‘this is the end of the mayor’s sentence’ * . . . . p . . . a . . . . u . . . .s . . . . e . . . . * then she’d ask her question. I have seen interviews before, obviously where there are no uses of ‘Um’ in between question/answers and it doesn’t seem awkward in the cases I’m thinking of. I remember watching CNN when I was in the States for vacation this summer and the interviewers always went into the next question as soon as the person was done talking, so I think it was just the reporter’s long pause that made it weird…

Overall I’ve concluded that with the transitioning:
1 – saying um sounds friendlier and more natural while you’re actually DOING the interview, but listening back to the interview, the um sounds unprofessional.

2 – not saying um but having too long of a pause in between the answer to the next question also sounds unprofessional because it’s like you forgot what you were going to say or it’s just this dead space of quiet awkward air.

And therefore the preferred method of transitioning is:

Do not say um—do not take a long pause or break after someone answers the question before you go into your next question—do not use a filler word—rather, JUST GO INTO YOUR NEXT QUESTION!

But I’ve found that it also depends on their answer.

A certain answer can easily constitute an immediate new question with no pause or no um in between, but that really depends on the answer.

A: “We did it for years”— Q: “Was it hard?”
A: “I decided not to go”—Q: “Why?”

See, no ums or pause necessary.

I guess that applies then when it’s all still related to the same question.

It gets hard to not um or pause when the person’s answered your question and you have another question that is completely unrelated to what they just finished saying.

I guess in that case you’d try to organize your questions so that there is a flow, but I mean it’s not like you can predict what they’re going to answer with. They could answer with something completely unexpected and even if you had organized your questions to be flowing, their unexpected answer that you were not anticipating would probably make you say ‘Oh, um, – into next question ‘.

ACTUALLY, now that I’ve written this, I realize I don’t just say ‘um’ exclusively. As I wrote in prior blogs, I say ‘Great’ a lot too.

A: “I spent years traveling back and forth, city to city”—Q: “That’s great, um * goes into next question * “

That’s actually a better picture of what most of my conversation transitions sound like, I think.

If whatever they said is not something you can say ‘that’s great’ to, I think I tended to say ‘Oh really? Um * goes into next question * ‘ or ‘Oh I see … um * goes into next question ‘

For some reason I really need those filler words before I can continue.

I think this whole issue could be more easily solved if I watched more TV interviews. I haven’t in a long time, which is bad considering I want to be on TV. I will get to it.

But another thing to note is the EDITING that occurs for a lot of interview or statement snippets used on radio or on TV.

Who is to say the interviewer didn’t use ‘um’ or ‘that’s great’ or ‘oh really’ before asking the next question? In cases where they only show snippets, they don’t show the interviewer’s question they just show the person’s answer and even if I say um or oh I see that’s great, pre-next question, that doesn’t affect the person’s response!

OKAY I completely veered way off topic, well sort of.

I’m just going to say I will work on my transitioning. This entire experience has really shown me how my interview skills were, how they currently are now, and what I’d like them to be in the future, so I’m glad that I learned about my intense need to say a filler in between questions and answers because now I can really try and focus to improve on this.

I had to scroll back up to see how I got into the um’s and it was because I said that my interviews on the phone have gotten a lot more comfortable.

They have! I think the messages I left on voicemails this week came off pretty professional and polished-sounding.

And throughout this entire summer, before I called someone, I’d have typed up a little ‘Hi my name is Linda and I’m with the Saint City News. I’m just calling because bla bla bla ‘ and so I would read off of that to start off my interview (I’m really good at reading off sentences, proud to say!) –but this week I ditched a couple of those pre-written introduction sentences and just winged it, and it was smoooooth!

That’s another thing I need to work on, while I think I’m awesome at reading off words (I was tested before, reading a story off a teleprompter and I did great), when I don’t have words to read off of, my mind kind of loses track and the question or sentence I end up saying isn’t as succinct or as professional as it should be… so I need to work on just winging it in a polished way.

Another story I wrote this week was about the Listeriosis outbreak that’s going on in Canada right now. It ended up being on the first page (well 3rd page but that is the first page once you flip the paper open)!

I thought participating restaurants wouldn’t want to talk because they’d send me to Head Office but there were 2 Mr. Sub’s in town that were independently owned and they talked to me and I could not have been more grateful.

Also with doing the listeriosis story, I was allowed to participate in a phone-in conference with the federal public health officials! I didn’t ask any questions but just being involved in a phone-in conference and hearing federal stuff first-hand, was a great experience.

This is just a list of stories I wrote this week so I remember whenever I decide I want to reminisce:

– city council RCMP story
– city council Servus Place story
– listeriosis outbreak story
– heritage youth researchers story
– st. albert protestant story
– update on riel park story
– soccer sports story
– my goodbye column
– rewrites of two news releases

So far I’ve talked about my council experience, soccer experience, listeriosis experience … the other stories I didn’t really encounter anything truly memorable so I will now talk about my goodbye column!

I got to write a goodbye column for this week’s paper. I should have been able to write a hello column when I first started but I was never informed of it until the sports guy told me the last intern wrote a hello column, lol.

Anyways, so my goodbye column was really fun to write because it was just me, writing. First person. My opinion. It was like writing a blog!

I will post my goodbye column in a separate post after I finish this blog.

Maybe I will edit it later and include a snapshot of what the column looks like in the paper!

Other than that, I think I’ve gone on pretty long now considering my ‘streets ‘ and ‘ums’ rants, so I will wrap this up.

I think I will do the whole philosophical overall knowledge and experience and what not wrap-up in the blog post where I post my goodbye column though, so to conclude strictly for THIS WEEK…

It was a busy, busy, very busy week.
I stayed late on Monday, I stayed late on Wednesday.
I covered two different beats I hadn’t done yet.
I always had something to do (which is a HUGE jump from the beginning of my time here when I had to draw out everything I did in order to fill the time!)

And it was probably the best week in terms of real-life reporting and deadline pressures.

I’d also like to add that it is Friday as I write this, my last day here, and the staff have put together a lunch at noon as I way to send me off—so sweet!

Linda

Linda Hoang is an Edmonton blogger who writes about food, travel, lifestyle/events and pets. She's also a social media/digital specialist with a journalism background. Linda is in love with her city and loves exploring and promoting Edmonton and other places she visits with her husband Mike. Linda is also the founder of the Edmonton International Cat Festival (and has 2 cats herself, along with 2 dogs).

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📸 photo credit: @alexscuccato 📸
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