If journalism is a cycle of listening and responding, the start of any good package begins with listening. To find the best content for our readers, it's fundamental to listen for community issues and gather news from beats across campus. Our headmaster has said on many occasions he looks to The ReMarker’s leaders to be the chief initiators of conversation for issues on campus. And to me, this is my most important contribution to the community around me — sharing stories and ideas that not only spark conversation but also speak on behalf of the readers. Our responsibility is to reflect the community surrounding us — its values, its experiences, its issues.
With this in mind, we strive to bring expertise and diversity into our publication as often as we can. Story sources are carefully selected to add depth and variety to the narrative — always looking to capture the story is in its most colorful and accurate form. From the day we pitch stories until the day we distribute across campus, many hours are spent tweaking questions, writing notes and sifting through new research to capture the story at its core for our community.
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campus beat system
Our school community is vibrant with constant activity. We have students in first through 12th grades and an alumni base numbering in the thousands spanning over 100 years. Additionally, our faculty members and parents are fully invested in the school. To fully cover such a dynamic school community, we use a beat system in which each staff member visits academic department heads, leaders of clubs and extracurricular activities, coaches and administrators. Beat sources are checked regularly through the school year, and by the end of each process, we have a comprehensive slate of items to report on.
I am fortunate that our headmaster has agreed to meet with me every two to three weeks to discuss important events, projects and programs he sees on the horizon. Through these conversations — along with our campus beat system as a whole — each newspaper cycle always begins with an extensive search for news.
story pitch day
After all the beats have been gathered, story pitch day is our opportunity to do additional research and reporting not covered in the campus beats. Because many ReMarker stories localize off-campus issues, one aspect of this day is gathering news and relevant research from various sources to fuel issue-driven stories on topics such as fraternity hazing, the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and Hurricane Harvey relief.
With each staff member required to pitch one issue-driven story and one personality profile idea, I spend hours on end scouring Twitter, national publications and local news websites constantly considering the implications headlines may hold in our community.
Sometimes, I go a bit overboard...
Often times, the best stories truly take form before I even put down any words. The amount of time I dedicate to background research and other preparation is always reflected in the final product — even if that means going a bit overboard at times.
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...and sometimes, I have no plan at all.
Although additional background research never hurts, sometimes, the best way to capture a source's story is to drop your notes and let the story tell itself — embracing that naturally simple conversation in its purest form. Here's a look at some of the moments during which I left my notes behind and embraced the story at its core.
the art of the Interview
To put it simply, the art of the interview sits at journalism's core. Over the years, I've learned that finding a source is never enough. The interview itself is one of the most fundamental aspects of reporting — and I'm always looking for ways to improve my interviewing skills. With each question, I try to dig deeper to get at the story's core. But beyond that, I'm always paying attention to a source's tone and body language to best capture the voice and personal experience. And when personal experiences are combined with accurate facts, well-informed context and deep expertise, I'm able to shape stories that move my community forward.
The sources below highlight my approaches to interviewing, selections of quotes provided in story packages and other additional background research. In addition, you can click on a source's name to learn more about the people I've interviewed.
When I first decided the Dallas police shootings would be the topic for my first issue of Focus Magazine as its editor, I couldn't stop talking about it for weeks. One day at tennis practice, I told my coach what I was working on, and immediately, she told me she could put me in touch with Officer Misty McBride — one of the officers shot the night of the shootings. I knew interviewing McBride was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I called McBride and agreed to meet her in an environment she was comfortable in: her every-day Starbucks on Greenville Avenue. In one of the most meticulous and heart-wrenching interviews I've ever conducted, McBride's story created waves in the community.
For our November 2017 issue of Focus Magazine on activism, I knew we needed to add a powerful source whose voice could tie the subject together and speak directly to my generation's role in the greater Dallas community. Because of this, I reached out to Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway — an long-time political activist for the city — and spoke with him for the magazine.
With a leadership position on staff, I know it's essential to have a good relationship with our school's headmaster. However, last year, I found myself interviewing Headmaster David Dini over the course of weeks in his office, at his home and in the publications suite for a long-form feature story on his path to manhood. From the life-changing loss of a close friend at a young age to the more-recent loss of his father, interviewing Dini came with a challenge of accurately portraying our school leader to the community.
When it came to our most recent Focus Magazine on gender identity, I knew the controversial nature of the topic demanded sources who have a unique voice with deep personal connections. With this in mind, I reached out to Alex Myers — former student and current English teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy. When Myers transitioned from female to male as an Exeter student, the school was forced to encounter gender identity issues for the first time. Myers now works to educate school administrators on his experience through the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). I knew this perspective on school gender policies would add depth to our coverage.
As the then assistant chief of the Dallas Police Department, Christina Smith offered a unique view on the impact the Dallas police shootings had on the Dallas community. Because Smith is very busy — especially after the shootings occurred — she responded to my frequent emails with answers to my questions after the magazine's print date. However, I knew I needed to take advantage of her time and colorful quotes, so I presented Smith's quotes as additional content to the magazine using social media.