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Writing a column vs. actually working

By JIM BUSEK • Apr 3, 2018 at 10:00 AM

My story last week about the big construction project at Summit Motorsports Park was something a little different for me.

Different, that is, from the columns I have gotten used to writing over the past few decades.

For instance, here’s how I write a column: 1. I get an idea. 2. I sit down and write the story.

Step 1 and Step 2 are usually completed in the comfort of my own home. In a couple of hours. Tops.

On the other hand, the Summit Motorsports Park article I wrote is called a feature story.

A newspaper column is all about the writer and his or her ideas or opinions. A feature, conversely, focuses on another individual or event. And it involves actual reporting.

In other words, there is more work involved.

For instance, you have to do interviews. For the repaving project, I called four people for their input. Three of them were not in. One of them called back within an hour. And I spent the next couple of days chasing down the other two.

In addition, a feature story usually involves going to wherever the person lives or the event is happening. Thus, last Monday morning I was out in the chill air amid the roar of machinery, the beehive of worker activity, and the urgency of a huge construction project with a critical deadline.

Finally, you really need pictures to bring a feature story to life. Which, at a newspaper this size, usually means you will be taking them yourself.

So, with my camera I climbed around the job site, tramped between the reinforcing bars, hiked into the grandstand, crouched by the big machines, dodged the workers with their bull floats, and annoyed individuals who did not want their pictures taken.

Eventually, I got back to my desk with a confusing array of content. Pictures to offload to my computer for selection, cropping, sharpening and identification. And tons of notes from my interviews and observations. I knew if I included it all the story would be hopelessly boring and overly long. So I agonized over what to include and what to leave out.

And finally I got to actually write the story.

See the difference? I wrote this column in about an hour. That feature, however, with its phone interviews and onsite observations and photography plus self-editing and writing, required parts of several days.

And you know what? Writing that feature was so much fun I’m going to keep my eye out for another one.


Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.

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