Wading through the thick, clay mud at the Birds Point levee was incredibly frustrating. At one point, as I watched the mud ball on my boots grow larger with every step, I realized what a great metaphor this was for the reporting process we’ve all struggled with the last three days.
Every story starts off so simply. You have an event, you talk to a person, you get a perspective. Then you talk to another person. Another perspective. Then you look at the place where it happened. More nuances and issues invade. Before you know it, your story is a giant, sticky mudball that is squelching out of control with every new step. You’re seriously tempted to take off your shoes and give up.
I guess that’s where the metaphor ends. Because at the end of the interview, we got to smear the mud off our boots with sticks and Brawny paper towels (I’m a loyal fan forever now), and move on. But our stories are still big, clumpy, and intimidating.
But thank God they are. If I had tried to write a story about any of these places without this trip, I cringe to think of the inaccuracies, misrepresentations and oversimplifications that would have littered my writing. As John often points out, most news stories are written from a chair in a newsroom, and I think we saw firsthand the massive limitations this puts on good, accurate reporting.
Emily Garnett, edited by Ben Unglesbee