Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

The Power of the Can

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OPB’s Kristian Foden-Vencil (love his name) did a story last month for OPB about how the community of Gold Beach on Oregon’s Pacific Coast was building a hospital.  That wouldn’t normally be news except that Gold Beach and practically every other community along the upper West Coast of the United States is tsunami ground zero from the next Ocean based earthquake.

The US Geological Survey says there is a 37% chance that a 9.0 magnitude level earthquake will strike the West coast within the next 50 years.  His story focused on what seemed to the locals to be a reasonable balance between what was necessary for safety, what was needed for the community and what they could afford.

But Mr. Foden-Vencil’s story just, this minute, finished airing on NPR’s All Things Considered.

In journalism parlence, his story was “evergreen”, meaning, some stories hold their age well and can be told now or later because there isn’t anything that locks them to a specific date.  And evergreen stories tend to end up “in the can”, another colloquialism of journalism that means a place where we keep evergreen stories to run them when we need them.

A station needs a cache of such stories.  Sometimes it’s a slow news day.  Or, sometimes, you’re short staffed.  Or sometimes, the editorial calender keeps pushing your story out of the way for more timely stories.  And I’ve talked about the necessity of a can full of such stories before.  The point is, you dear listener, may hear a story that sounds hauntingly familiar.

To coin a term from the last century, you are not being gas lighted.

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Written by Interviewer

February 27, 2015 at 09:31

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