Week 6 of Structured Stories: Could we do this from a warehouse in Durham?
Students on the team explore whether they could actually work from a remote location far from the city they're covering.
By Natalie Ritchie & Rachel Chason – July 14, 2015 | Print this article
Field notes by the Structured Stories NYC team: Ishan Thakore, Natalie Ritchie and Rachel Chason.
When Bill visited our New York office last week, we talked about how the project was going and, more specifically, the utility of original reporting. The lesson from last week’s blog post was that attending meetings isn’t really critical for Structured Stories. At one point, Bill asked, “Could we operate Structured Stories NYC from a warehouse in Durham?”
Our quick reply — probably so.
As we mulled it over, we all agreed. We could have done this anywhere.
Because so many resources are available online, from court documents to live videos of committee hearings, remote reporting is both feasible and efficient.
Traditional reporters still need the immediate access to sources, the details of a scene and the off-hand remarks that can only be caught in person. But for us, the situation is different.
While most news organizations focus more on breaking news, we have preferred in-depth, historical research that provides background and context to recent events. And the archived news articles, historical records and statistics that we need to describe those events and stories can all be found online.
Granted, if we weren’t in New York, Ishan might not have developed his relationships with WNYC reporters, Natalie wouldn’t have talked to Josh Mohrer and Rachel wouldn’t have met police brutality protesters in Union Square.
At the end of the day, however, we all would’ve been able to create the same number of events whether in New York or in a warehouse in Durham. Remote reporting is uniquely feasible in this Structured Stories project.
But being disconnected from the stories we’re covering has been something of a downside to the project.
For three budding journalists who enjoy getting out and talking to people, Structured Stories NYC has not been quite what we expected. Inputting events has at times felt tedious, and we’re largely cloistered in our office all day. While some people might find this work rewarding, we doubt traditional journalists would if they had to do it full-time.
But we think there might be a good balance in this scenario: a beat reporter who spends most of the day covering the news in a traditional way and concludes with an hour or two structuring stories.
That would give the reporter a more well-rounded job experience and provide Structured Stories with the expertise of a skilled journalist.