See, journalists fit as much information as possible into their work to tell you, the readers, watchers or listeners, why their stories are important. (I am going to assume you are all readers, as that is what you are doing right now, and that is the medium I employ.) You read about the voices pushing to minimize the number of teenagers addicted to nicotine, an outpost in an African desert using a nut shell as a source of alternative energy and a nurse sharing her story of breast cancer in the hopes they will not have to go through what she did.
What you never see is the mountain of information journalists cannot fit — the countless interviews, datasets, government reports, fact sheets and anecdotes. While helpful, too much information weighs-down a story and prevents it from moving forward. Reporters use all that information to help shape the final narrative, but you, readers, will never learn of it all.
And that is where I hope this blog comes in — I cover the statehouse in the Land of Lincoln for Capitol News Illinois, a news service that provides content for over 430 weekly and daily newspapers across the Prairie State. My colleagues and I report on everything from Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new administration to the Democrats’ supermajority in the General Assembly, from the Supreme Court to each state agency and constitutional officer.
When I cover the tobacco 21 initiative, proposals to allow municipalities to enact rent control measures and efforts to reform how political maps are drawn here (to name a few things I reported on so far this session), I can assure you not every interview I conduct, report I find or interesting nugget of information I uncover makes it into my final piece. Why? For one thing, I am always on deadline — often, I simply do not have the time. Others, the information just does not fit with the story.
But I plan to write about those things in “Behind the News.” To be clear, you will not find gossip here. You will find bits of interesting information I could not fit into my article (the reasons for which I referenced earlier); vignettes of a source I wish I could have decorated my story with but knew there was no space for; and maybe some photos or audio from the day, or links to tweets.
Most posts will be the length of this one, but some will be shorter, or longer. And your feedback, reader, is always welcome. Feel free to comment on these posts with questions, and I will do my best to respond. Or, did I post a story I wrote (which I usually do on my Resume page) but not write a blog post about, and you are curious if there is one coming? Leave me a comment on that story.
I also muse about journalism frequently — whether we, as an industry, are adapting as well as we could be to the times in which we find ourselves. (Often times I find the answer to be a resounding “no.”) For posts containing my thoughts on that, and other such things, I will preface the title with “On Journalism,” so for those of you who are completely uninterested, you will be able to see as clearly as possible which posts to avoid.
If there is anything you have a question about, feel free to leave it below! To close, I am going to take a page out of the book of an old journalism professor I once had: