I'm a freelancer.
In a given week, I write for at least three publications, both in print and online (plus this much-neglected blog). Because I'm pretty much at the bottom of each respective totem poll, I tend to get assignments that are, well, befitting that altitude.
I did this at my last newspaper, too, those unglamorous bits and pieces, but since I had a regular beat there, it wasn't all I did. I had stories that developed over time, that had new angles, and that weren't just things we covered every year.
So let's make some lemonade here. What can I learn doing stories that won't win awards, that have no real controversy, that an editor would trust to a guy she sees at best once a week?
Multimedia. Every time.
I used to complain about having to grind out stories, but damn, it made my writing better. And faster. It meant I didn't wait to make phone calls or chit chat with sources that weren't telling me stuff I needed to know. And I'm a better reporter because of it.
When my new editor tells me to cover a parade, I don't even ask if I can maybe do something multimedia. I just build the slide show.
In my bag--same one I've lugged for five years, through four countries--is my laptop (MacBook), audio recorder (Zoom H2), point 'n shoot (Canon A530), plus the notepad, pens, batteries, cords and a portable 80 GB hard drive.
I'm getting better at this, and it's getting easier. Building a Soundslides piece takes about an hour. I've used photos from staff photographers, subjects and my own camera.
This week I'm going for video, which I haven't done much of since leaving China. When I can put a two-minute story together in under two hours, I'll start fine tuning.