When all else fails and knocking on doors and taking names actually works.
Never in my reporting experience have I driven an hour away from the “newsroom” hoping to find a story. That’s exactly what my mentor, a NextGen audio engineer, the NextGen digital designer, and I did.
It was Tuesday morning and none of my sources — over the period of two weeks of calling — for my original story got back to me about an interview. My mentor, Traci Tong, and I laid out our next steps for plan B: tiny houses in Sacramento. I spent a couple hours calling tiny house construction companies and wasn’t able to directly speak with one of these contractors.
So a group of us packed our gear, put on our seat belts, and drove down the I-5 Freeway to knock on some doors of some tiny house homeowners.
I wrote down a few questions in my reporter’s notebook on the way to the Delta to an RV campground with reportedly several tiny homes. This was my first time being around the Delta, so it was a great place for photos of worn down, abandoned boats.
We entered Park Delta Bay campground and the gatekeeper told us the lot only had three tiny homes. We drove in on the gravel road around the block a couple times to stake out the homes. Once we found the three tiny homes, Traci, the audio engineer Patrice, and I knocked on the door of the tiny homes. An elderly woman was the only one who answered, but wasn’t willing to speak with us. She did tell us of a young family around the bend that moved with their RV into the campground a few months ago.
On that tip alone we drove around the corner — we weren’t going to waste the trip. I didn’t have any questions, any idea of who this family is, any clue of a story, and that terrified me. I usually am prepared with questions after doing my research, but this was my first time knocking at someone’s door and asking about their living situation. Sounds strange, right?
But the family was nice, and we loved their story. So in the end, I did a story that I didn’t even think about minutes before recording that family. It turned out being a great experience of finding a story in everyone and being able to flip a story into something I’m proud of.