Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reporter gets local angle on faraway story, fast

Wherever you are in the country, sometimes national news will happen that affects your readers. The best journalists quickly find what's relevant for their particular audience and present it usefully. In this case, I was so impressed by a story turned around quickly by the Austin American-Statesman's Helen Anders that I asked her to write me a little bit on how she put the story together.

It's perhaps a fairly ordinary type of story -- as I said, it's standard practice to find the local angle on a story, or to produce helpful "If you go" information -- but to me, it's the expertise and authority Anders musters that make this piece noteworthy.

The news event here is the UT Longhorns earning a spot in college football's national title game. Anders covers travel. Are the two connected? Oh, yes. Lots of our readers in Austin have suddenly decided they really, really want to be in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 7.

Earlier this week, Anders put in a few hours' worth of work and produced a story so packed with insider-ish detail that I actually went over to her desk and asked if she'd ever lived in Pasadena. Nope; she's just a good reporter. Here's how she describes it:
I knew a little about Pasadena to start with -- a couple of restaurants and museums I'd been to. Then I e-mailed a woman who had posted a comment on an earlier blog about Pasadena who obviously was a local. Got her recommendations. Then I chatted with a woman at the Convention and Visitors Bureau and got her recommendations, which I couldn't attribute because a CVB always gets in trouble if it recommends particular establishments. Still, these people know what's good.

Then I called a local museum and chatted with the PR guy about where he eats. Then to get more information on the Rose Bowl area specifically and getting to the game, I googled "Rose Bowl transportation" and got that really helpful link and info that I posted on parking and such. Kayak.com and the CVB Web site gave me leads for checking flights and hotels (which I will update again momentarily, by the way).
Even if I'd never been to Pasadena, I could've gotten a good feel for the place from my desk.

The key here is to make sure all your info is current. For example, if you read about a shuttle bus on a Web site, make sure that shuttle hasn't been canceled by budget cuts. (Some publications are still writing about our Dillo, alas.) That's a matter of checking Nexis or, if you don't have Nexis, going to the official Web site of whatever entity runs the shuttle bus.

How long did all this take me? A few hours.

Oh, and she filed early enough that we got it on the Web before all the plane seats were sold out -- then revised and updated it twice before it ever saw print.
Thank you again, Helen, for writing this up!