A muddy reflection on the end of the FRI

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


One response to “A muddy reflection on the end of the FRI

  1. Perfect. This is so true and I’m not sure why I’ve never thought of writing in this way. Thank you for giving me this very visual way to think of the process. Those who really dig are often tempted to give up (it happens to me almost every time I write about something complicated), but there is another gear to help you get through the mire. Sometimes it is just one more question or one more answer that helps sort it out. Sometimes it is the threat of the deadline!

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