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How To Cover A Big Story Like Shakedown [Pt. 1]

Tips From Scouting Magazine's Bryan Wendell

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Through the awesomeness of Twitter, we caught wind that some of you coming to the 2013 National Jamboree are big into journalism. We were pretty stoked about that because you know what? We are, too!

With the story-writing chance of a lifetime coming up next year, it was our duty to help you budding journalists prepare. To do this, the Summit Blog (SB) grabbed Scouting magazine’s Bryan Wendell and made him spill the secrets on crafting the finest scoop of your life. Read on to get the goods!

SB: Bryan, it’s been a while. How are things going post-Shakedown?

Bryan: It’s been a little hectic around here, but that’s a good thing. Summer’s always one of our busiest times because there’s so much Scouting excitement happening—summer camps, high-adventure treks, national meetings, week-long trips. We’re still catching up!

SB: So, let’s get right into this goodness. How do you wrangle a big event like Shakedown into just one finely crafted article?

For the Shakedown story, there were plenty of memorable moments to choose from, so I made the story a series of vignettes all tied together with the common theme of “everything’s bigger and better at the Summit.”

Bryan: Just like any puzzle, you need to start by looking at the pieces and laying them out in front of you. So I listened to all of the audio recordings I had taken during the event—about seven hours’ worth—and transcribed them into a [Microsoft] Word document. I did the same with my written notes.

Once the pieces were in front of me, I began to see the best scenes, quotes, and images from the event, and I bolded those in the document. Then I copied and pasted those quotes into a new document and weaved them together with transitions, observations, and commentary.

SB: You can be honest. This is really just a super-skill of yours, right?

Bryan: Hardly! More like great guidance from professors and editors—and tons of practice.

For me, the most important skill has been taking careful notes. And for that I go with the “more is more” approach. When I’m at an event, I’d rather take too many notes or get too many quotes than the opposite.

I can’t re-stage an event once it’s over, so I take full advantage when I’m there.

SB: How did you come up with an angle of Shakedown that catches the attention of your readers?

Bryan: I think a lot of people want to know how the Summit and the 2013 jamboree will differ from Fort A.P. Hill and the 2010 jamboree. So I asked everyone I talked to whether they had attended in 2010; if they had, I got their opinions about how the new site is different and—as they all enthusiastically told me—significantly better.

This “bigger and better” theme extended beyond the site itself, though. Scouts and Scouters told me the Summit’s activity offerings are faster, higher, and more fun than what was available two years ago.

That said, the extreme-adventure angle doesn’t appeal to everyone—some 13-year-olds won’t want to try the steep mountain biking course with its sharp turns and high speeds. So I also explored the idea of “choose your challenge.” Scouts and Scouters told me this means boys and girls of all ages and ability levels will find something for them at the Summit.

SB: What about planning? Do you start in advance with detailed items of what you need to capture, busily planning until the night before the event, or do you just go skipping in and write about whatever catches your attention?

Bryan: I knew I wanted to get some of the flavor of each activity offered at the Shakedown, but other than that I went in with an open mind. With most Scout events I cover, the questions that arise on-site are much more interesting than anything I could’ve written beforehand.

And skipping? Well, yeah! It was my first time at the Summit, so I was skipping with excitement once we pulled in. I didn’t think anyone had seen me, though. Oops!

 

Wow! Are you all keeping notes out there? We hope so, because there’s much more to come! Join us next week as we roll out those extra-juicy details that really get you up close and personal with the biggest event in Scouting history!

Are you coming to the 2013 National Scout Jamboree? Will you use a camera or journal to keep track of your time here? Let us know in the comments!

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