Gregg Found on publishing in the real world:
It was nice to know that the reporting you were doing wasn’t just for practice. It was for real. And I think that challenged and pushed all of us a little bit. When we knew our story had a good shot at making the front page of the next week’s Spring Hope Enterprise, we wanted to make sure we turned out a good product. And when we did, it felt great.

Sam Giffin on how small Spring Hope was:
Spring Hope is small.  It is very small.  I remember the first time the bucket brigade was traveling to the office of the Spring Hope Enterprise we nearly drove straight through town.  Some people driving alone did simply drive straight through probably thinking, “Was that it?â€?

Cody Braun on smallness and authenticity:
In Spring Hope, many things are clearly the way they have been for at least a generation or two. While many people were busy being alarmed by the diminutive size of the Enterprise office on the first trip to Spring Hope, I was admiring the icehouse that still stands out front, where in Carrboro there might be a piece of avant-garde metalwork.

Nothing sums up the differences between two towns like the way people eat, and this is certainly true of Spring Hope and Carrboro. One blue team reporter went to Spring Hope and asked the town hall receptionist where to get some chow, expecting to get a long list of options. Instead, he found out about “theâ€? restaurant, Showside. In downtown Carrboro, it is hard to walk twenty feet without finding another international culinary option. On the other hand, you would be less likely to get your interview completely by accident in Carrboro. After a solid morning and afternoon of searching for a source one Friday, we decided to call it quits, get lunch and head home. Not only did half the people in Showside recognize and thank us, but who should walk in halfway through the meal but the missing sheriff we had searched all morning for. The odds of running into any particular person at any single restaurant in Carrboro are pretty slim.

Cameron Weaver comparing Spring Hope with Carrboro:
The communities of Spring Hope and Carrboro gave me very different vibes upon entering each. Spring Hope is a type of “If you blink, you’ll miss itâ€? town. It’s so small that my first thought was a bit judgmental and condescending because I thought there might not be too much going on in a town that size. I used to complain about the lack of things to do in Winston-Salem, but my first impression of Spring Hope made me feel like I was raised in New York City.

I accidentally drove right past Spring Hope on my first visit there, and I didn’t even realize it until I stopped and asked someone. Ken Ripley had specifically told me that the library was in the center of town in a former train depot, and I recall him saying, “You can’t miss it.â€? Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever really been in a town as small as Spring Hope, aside from driving through small towns on the way to the beach, and I completely missed the entire town.

Marianna King on parachute journalism:

Parachute journalism isn’t generally a positive term. It implies that a reporter cares little about the place he’s landed. It implies that a reporter couldn’t possibly cover that community with thoughtfulness or passion. I hope that our class has challenged the negativity of the term for the readers in Carrboro and Spring Hope. We had fun – it would be hard to have fun in a place you don’t care about. Dean Byers asked me about the future of the Bucket Brigade during the Brunswick stew. When I told him we were just a temporary aid to the Enterprise during the few months that Ripley recovered, he said that he knew we would be missed and that our stories helped the community re-experience the ordinary.

Kendal Walters on the challenges of being a parachute journalist:
A contrast between interviewing in Spring Hope and Carrboro was that I had a harder time connecting with people in Spring Hope because of cultural differences.  The fact was I had never been to Spring Hope before those three trips, and so I didn’t know about the traditions or what was common knowledge there.  For example, contestants at the pumpkin recipe contest looked at me like I was crazy when I wasn’t familiar with what a pumpkin jack was (I soon discovered it is like a turnover).  I also didn’t know the basics of the geographic area, such as nearby towns, so when someone said they were from a particular place I had to expose myself even more as an outsider by asking where exactly that place was located.  At first this was uncomfortable for me, but in some cases it was advantageous to play dumb or ‘be dumb’ because interviewees explained things that would have been taken for granted by other reporters.

With an outsider writing a story, there is a certain potential to add a different angle if that person can recognize things not apparent to community members who have grown up in the environment.  At the same time, there are inherent challenges in being a parachute journalist, like not being familiar with the local community or important sources.  Luckily our difficulties parachuting into the Enterprise were mediated by a staff that knew a lot about the community and provided us with invaluable support and information.

Kate Newnam on working hard and playing hard:
When I found out my story had made the front page, I was surprised to find myself so ecstatic about it.  Yes, it was a small town paper, but I had a front page article that I could put into my clips file.  That sense of excitement spurred me into reaching for another one with my next story.  I got some help with my quest from Kendall when she told me about the Veterans’ Day brunch the sixth graders at Southern Nash Middle School were holding to honor the veterans of the Nashville American Legion and others they had invited as well.  My dad is a Gulf War veteran, so the thought of hearing the stories of these men immediately struck me as an interesting assignment.

The Veterans’ Day brunch ended up being the best journalism experience I have had since I started writing as a sophomore in high school.  I spent a Friday morning talking with veterans from wars of the past fifty years and could not have had more fun.

Kate Newnam on being recognized:
As I was wrapping up my interviewing and getting ready to leave the brunch, a teacher noticed me holding my notebook while chatting with Joe and recognized me as one of the “bucket brigaders.â€?  He immediately went off searching for one of his students who had been interested in getting into journalism and was fascinated with the idea of us coming to write for her town newspaper.  Since the last visit had been the Blue Team’s introduction to the area and no one knew who we were, I was quite taken aback to be talking to someone who had recognized me from the paper and knew all about what I was doing in town.

Cody Braun comparing the Enterprise with the Carrboro Commons and the Citizen:
The offices of the two publications make their differences as clear as day. The Carrboro Commons is written on wireless laptops all around town and edited in a state of the art classroom, which is probably slightly larger than the Enterprise office. Stepping into the Enterprise feels a little bit like going back in time at least a decade. The wood paneling is covered with years and years worth of awards and plaques, and the whole place smells and feels exactly like one would hope that small town news paper office would. The carpet is worn from ages of use and stacks of newspapers cover every surface. The environment is very warm and welcoming, and people on the street seem to have no problem with coming in and giving the staff a piece of their mind. The first day I went to Spring Hope, we were caught in the cold, pouring rain, and nothing was nicer than camping out in the Enterprise office, editing, chatting with old Joe, eating some barbeque and just listening to the rain come down. An important part of any community paper’s physical location is that it is accessible to its community; one of the biggest concerns the staff of the Carrboro Citizen said that they had was getting a storefront location where people could come in a give them feedback, and the Enterprise has established this nicely. It is important to have a finger on the pulse of your community and not be off in an ivory tower far from readers. This is the only way to gain feedback, find stories, gain access and generally find out how well the paper is doing its job.

Cameron Weaver on why this mattered, academically:
In both communities I felt a huge sense of accountability that honestly I’d never truly understood before. Certainly I want to be fair and accurate in my reporting stories for other classes as well, but I felt much stronger about that in this experience. I knew that my story subjects not only read their local paper but would especially seek it out after being interviewed for it. The chance of publication in the subjects’ own newspapers almost made me nervous because I wanted to be 100% sure I believed in every single word I wrote. I felt such a different level of responsibility and liability once my assignments were submitted to legitimate newspapers, not simply to one professor who gives it a grade and hands it back to me.

Overall, I had quite a learning experience in both places. Spring Hope felt so foreign to me, but Carrboro was surprisingly challenging as well, despite its proximity. No matter which community I covered, I learned some overarching qualities of community journalism. I met people in both communities who were very willing to talk to me and who treated me with dignity. I also learned the value of advance homework because I got stuck in a rut once in each town. Most of all, I now understand the importance of talking to others as human beings, not merely as interview subjects. I discovered the importance of getting to know others and sincerely listening to their stories and allowing them the chance to share their thoughts. My strongest stories came from the times when I allowed the conversations to veer totally off-track into topics I hadn’t planned on. Whether covering a quirky, artsy, liberal community or a laid-back, traditional, tight-knit community, I think that respect and accountability are the essential qualities for success.

Kendal Walters on humility and non-elitism:
My biggest learning experience with either of the newspapers was the story I did on Southern Nash High School’s agricultural education department.  I got to practice the seemingly impossible skill of actively interviewing, taking notes, and taking pictures all at the same time.

Something else I learned from the agricultural education story was a textbook lesson– to never go into a story looking down condescendingly, albeit subconsciously, on small town people or small town life.  I heard the words agricultural education, and being from a city I had a certain set of expectations.  When I actually got into the experience of interviewing and seeing the unique elements of the program, my expectations were turned upside down.  I was extremely impressed and surprised to find a high school with such a well-developed curriculum and extensive resources in a unique subject area.  I also realized one of my favorite parts of journalism is the personal growth that you, as a journalist, are able to gain by learning about and being exposed to new situations and topics.

Sam Giffin on doing practical journalism for real:
I had some news and editorial experience from high school and relatively disorganized campus groups but nothing like what this semester turned out to be.  It has been foremost, the experience of a lifetime.   This is one of the few classes that I am sure I will remember long after I have a new career because what I learned this semester can be attributed to real life.  No matter where I am.

2 Responses to “Bucket Brigadiers Reflect”

  1. D. Brent Miller

    Jock, I am not sure when I discovered the Blue Highways Journal, but I have read most of your posts. I am a former professor of journalism and photojournalism, and finding ways to provide students real-life experience is difficult. Your concept for community journalism is a model for others.

    I am sure the students go kicking and screaming at first, but the comments above show the real value.

    Congratulations on a great semester.

    Brent

  2. jock lauterer

    Hey Brent, thanks for the kind comments. Yes, experiential learning is the way to go, though it takes mountains of prep org’ing work. All worth it in the end, says I.
    Also, it’s just flat out fun for an old newsie.
    Cheers.
    Jock

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