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I am going to fail

Posted on 15 January 2014

I’ve spent the last two days editing stories for a series I’m working on called “At Home in the Hood.” It focuses on stories about Prince George’s VLA neighbourhood, sometimes referred to as “the hood” of the city. It has high rates of poverty, crime, and other problems compared not just to the rest of the city, but the rest of the province.

This is the neighbourhood people are told to avoid when they are looking for a home in Prince George which is, by some measures Canada’s Most Dangerous City.

I want the series to provide that context, but more importantly I want it to have personal stories that give people some concept of what life is like in the VLA. I want it to be macro, but I want it to be micro.

I am going to fail.

I have spent the last few months collecting story ideas, conducting interviews and going through archives. So have other people on my team. Until this week, this hasn’t been an all day every day type of thing. More like a little bits here and there type of thing. But enough to know we’re only scratching the surface.

There are people I want to interview that I’m not going to get to interview. There are sounds I want to gather that aren’t going to be gathered. Important viewpoints that won’t be shared.

And that’s just the stuff I don’t have. With the stuff I do have, there are cuts to be made. I have to take hour-long interviews and condense them to six minutes. All sorts of anecdotes and emotions go out with that. You do your best to get to their core, but you’re still making choices about what that core is.

It’s interesting once you start putting together stories, you begin to realize how the order you put the words in can affect the overall tone. The same two paragraphs or sentences in a different order hit an entirely different emotional chord. The question of how you want to order things becomes a philosophical one- you can use just facts and still manipulate things.

Heck, I’m sitting there in some stories debating whether to leave in a long pause or shorten it by a couple of seconds to move things along quicker. Breaths and stutters might be just breaths and stutters… or they might add resonance and emotion to the words someone is saying.

So I’m making all these editorial choices about what stays and what goes. And that’s the problem. If you start with a goal of capturing everything, the instance you start removing bits you’ve already failed.

So I’m doing my best to live up to my original goals. I’m happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m really not sure of how it’s all going to fit together. I’m convinced there’s going to be some important bit of information or interview that shouldn’t have been cut or was never conducted in the first place.

It might be good. I hope it’s good.

But I am definitely going to fail.

Filed under: CBC, personal, radio

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