Shannon Philpott

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching

Meaty Story or Milky Mess?

 I’ve never been one to rush out the night before a “predicted” snow storm and buy up all the milk and bread on the shelves. In fact, I often refuse to go anywhere near the stores when a storm is brewing, especially since I don’t even like milk very much.

But, nevertheless, the rush of a “predicted” storm sends people into panic mode. They break out the survival skills and fill the fridge with necessities as if they will be snowed in for days.

Snow day panic mode is very similar to a journalist’s or writer’s looming deadline. We know it’s coming sometimes days or weeks before and we know what needs to be done, yet we don’t break out our survival skills until 10 minutes before closing time.

Instead of preparing days in advance for a story on our plates, we often wait until the last minute, scrounging up our interviews hours before a deadline and writing until the wee hours of the morning to complete the project.

The downfall to our procrastination is the lack of creativity. When rushed, mistakes are made, facts are not checked as accurately as they should be and we settle for less-than-stellar leads, quotes and transitions, just as panicked people settle for milk and bread instead of steaks and seafood.

Writing under deadline is a harsh reality of the field, yet there are ways to prepare in a more productive manner. When assigned a story, we can begin researching right away, pick up the phone and schedule interviews and create a mock outline of the story. We can educate ourselves about the topic before we even arrive to interview a subject and allow our minds the chance to get creative.

We may still have to write under pressure during the wee hours of the night, but at least our minds have had a chance to absorb the topic thoroughly, allowing for more creativity and better crafted prose.

I may not be the one who rushes out to get milk and bread, but I am the one who rushes out to get the story. I prefer to sink my teeth into a meaty story instead of mopping up a milky mess at the end of the day.

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– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Feb. 16, 2010

 © Shannon Philpott, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and shannonphilpott.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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February 16, 2010 - Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Not sure I agree – I think my best writing comes at the very last minute. If I have too much time to complete a story, I make many unneccessary changes and end up ruining the “heart” of it.
    In fact, I have a story due tomorrow that I could be writing right now – instead, I’m reading your blog. 🙂

    Comment by molly | February 17, 2010 | Reply


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