I Can Be A Story Tease

It happens occasionally that you find a story in your local community which you consider very important. Others would likely agree. You get so excited as you prepare for interviews, photos, etc.

You post a teaser on facebook, something like “Just caught wind of a possible development in Pine River that could be pretty big. Watch next week’s @PAL_EchoJournal for details.” on twitter.

You get comments from people who want to know more. You are getting more and more excited to tell the story but then… something happens and the story is delayed, possibly weeks. Possibly months. It’s official. you are a story tease.

Recently that happened to me. We were tipped off to a story which sounded promising for our little town. After all, new business in Pine River is always big news. I called one source from our tipster and he immediately answered.

He gave me confirmation of the tip we received and then some. He gave me enough information to get very excited.

“We’re already speaking with (such and such business),” he says.

I could almost write a news brief from that alone, but I don’t dare. It’s not a complete story. So I set up an interview. My subject says he wants his partner-in-crime at the interview with him. I hang up the phone and try calling said PIC and get nothing but a voicemail message.

In the meantime I post the tweet I mentioned above. A local resident and Pine River Mayoral candidate asks “Something good?”

A friend who used to work with the paper follows up with “Any Clues?”

Of course, I could tell them everything I know if I wanted, but then why would they bother reading the article, and by the time the newspaper gets out, the story will already be old news. I refrain from giving any clues.

The next day I call my second source again. He answers and tells me that there is not yet enough information, they would like to wait on a news story. The man I scheduled an appointment with in about half an hour agrees. The interview is cancelled. I go, in shame to my facebook and twitter and inform my readers, “You will have to wait a few weeks, maybe more.”

This isn’t a first for me. I had this same thing happen more than a year ago, reporting on a group of Pine River-Backus students who decided to take a personal stand against synthetic marijuana. The thing is, they were all former users. Naturally, you want to be careful about exposing school students to mistreatment, especially for trying to do something good. When the story got delayed in order for my incredibly busy editor to read it over a few extra times, I had already put up a teaser on Facebook. The next week, discussion ensued with the school principal and superintendent who had some reasonable concerns about keeping the sources for the story private. It took us a couple more weeks to discuss whether we should use first letters of first names, only last names, or aliases. By the time we made a decision, the paper was overwhelmed with huge current events. The story ended up with delay after delay after delay. It lost some of its timeliness by the time it ran. But sometimes that is the name of the game.

So, why do we tease? I guess it is just an effort to improve our collaboration with electronic and social media. Twitter and Facebook are great sources for promotion, so of course we are going to use them. Do we sometimes jump the gun? Yup, absolutely, but I’m never going to run a story before its ready, I can promise that.

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