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Knowing your focus

Posted on 13 June 2012

Here’s a post where I criticize my ability to do my job.

For the last little while, a project I’ve been building towards was a story on a breakaway scouting group in Prince George. In the past, the city only had the Scouts Canada, but recently one of the troops left that organization and joined the BPSA, which says it focuses more on traditional scouting.

When putting together a story we’re always looking for the “focus.” In one sentence, what is this story about? Normally, it’s somebody doing something for a reason. Person, action, motivation. Just like anything, really, be it a movie or a thesis statement.

So for a couple of weeks I was planning on doing this story and in my mind it was “they are joining  a  new organization because they want to get back to the roots of scouting.” There was potential for conflict, differing philosophies, the over-protective nature of our society– all contained in a four minute clip.

Here’s the story: http://www.cbc.ca/daybreaknorth/interviews/2012/06/12/breakaway-boy-scouts/

As you can hear, I did get into the motivation with the two leaders, both of whom were great chats. But the part that anchors it, for me, is the kid. All he wanted to do was play Wii. Now he’s sanding down trees to make staffs that have morse code written in them and making plans on how to survive on his own. I edited other stuff out, like how he wants to be a leader of the troop in the future.

Part way through editing the tape I thought “I should just get rid of everything and make this story about the kid.” But I didn’t, because I had all that other stuff, and I had my idea of what the story was– the whole troop breaking away. And it’s a good story, don’t get me wrong. But I should have split it up. I should have done that story separately. Then I should have done the story of the kid forced out of videogames and into the wilderness and loving it. It’s not about the politics of scouting or the overprotective nature of modern society. But it is a clean, compelling focus with a strong centre. I don’t dislike the story I put together by any means. But I think if I had been willing to get rid of what I thought the story was about and then tell the story I found, it could have been a lot stronger.

Photo: Members of the 1st Prince George BPSA salute the flag. More, including the awesome staff, on Flickr.

Filed under: journalism, radio

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