As a reporter, pitching an “issue” story often felt like gridlock to me. The personalities at the table often appreciated my ideas but ultimately assigned me to one of those reports we expect from TV news. However my last story before leaving my reporting job allowed me to stray outside the box one last time.
I had read a story in a major out-of-state newspaper about a growing trend of thieves stealing valuable hair extensions from stores. What surprised me most, other than the story itself, was that the paper interviewed a local man as an expert on the topic.
I was confident when I inserted this issue among my colleagues at the editorial meeting table. The idea contained a power ingredient: the bizarre. Consider the bizarre like catnip for some TV newsrooms. The station assigned me the story.
And the story kept getting stronger. Great hair flowed from the local expert I read about and then interviewed myself. A store with shelves filled with hair extensions allowed us inside. A couple of women in the newsroom, to my shock, even acknowledged to me with pride they wear hair extensions.
Then came news that bordered on the ludicrous. As if someone wanted to ensure I didn’t stray too far from the formula, breaking news shortly before I delivered the story brought us fresh surveillance video of thieves at a California store stealing more valuable hair. The story threatened to move past a report on a quirky trend into something more mainstream.
At the moment, I’m having difficulty remembering my very first story in TV news. But I can’t forget my last, which struck the perfect tone for what TV news often wants to see and hear.