In March I began writing stories for the Sault Star, as a district correspondent for Algoma. What this means is that I can’t cover stories inside Sault Ste Marie – not even if they involve David and Animalia – but I can cover anything outside of the Sault and within Algoma. In practice I don’t cover St Joseph Island, because there’s a correspondent there, but anything else is fair game.
In the beginning, thinking up stories seemed like the hardest part of the job. My editor, Jeffrey Ougler, doesn’t say “Go cover the mud-wrestling at the Bruce Mines Fall Fair”. No, I have to find that event for myself, pitch it to Jeffrey, and then show up with a two-by-four to beat a path through the city-desk men out to scoop my story. (Okay, I’m just kidding; there’s no mud-wrestling event at the Bruce Mines Fall Fair. )
It’s all practice, just learning to look at what’s happening and think of it as a newspaper story. I’m reminded of E. Annie Proulx’s wonderful novel “The Shipping News” (and please read the novel – the movie was really annoyingly not the book!).
A veteran newspaper reporter talks to a newcomer about how to make a story of anything. The veteran points at the clouds and says, “Deadly Storm Threatens Village”. “But what if the storm doesn’t happen?” asks the new guy. The veteran says, “Village Spared by Deadly Storm”.
It’s a comic moment, but also a true one. Anything can be news. News is a form of gossip, and gossip is how we keep up on what’s going on in our world. I’m not talking malicious talk here, but simply the passing around of information.
“So Anthony likes a spot of gossip, does he?” said Flora. “As long as it ain’t malicious,” said Mrs. Beetle. “He always takes on something terrible right after I’ve told him anything malicious.”
Gossip is the sort of talk that lets you know who got married, moved away from town or back into town, changed jobs, opened a new business, had a bit of good luck, or bad luck. Maybe it’s your cousin you’re talking about, or some Hollywood Beautiful Couple, or the local sports team, but it’s all gossip, and it’s all news.
It’s fun being something of a gossip-monger for hire. It’s amazing how many people want to be gossiped about, too, and who have ideas for stories I should write. One gentleman at the Wharncliffe Community Hall tonight said I should write about the fascinating people I met at the community dinner – which was the reason I was at the Community Hall in the first place. Joking aside, I picked up two more story ideas while I scarfed down chicken, fish, salad and homemade pie.
There are stories everywhere.