Tuesday, December 03, 2002

What's the value

I've been fortunate enough to meet some pretty nice people, some fairly influential people, and — to be honest — a fair share of absolute jerks.

Anyway, I'm getting off my topic.

Being in the news business, you get a skewed view of the world.

Whether I'm driving down Transit, taking my daughter to school, or watching television, my most frequent thought is, "How can I write a story about this?"

I'm on watch 24-7. If I don't know the answer to something, I want to. If I know the answer and I think someone else may not, I want to get it in the paper — share the wealth, so to speak.

Excellent qualities for a newsman, I must admit.

But it has definite drawbacks.

First of all, the line between work and home is hardly black and white.

For a lot of folks, there's the time card thing. Punch the card, you're working. Punch again, you're not.

For others, its a matter of entering and exiting a building. Work is a place rather than a concept.

For a reporter, though. Being a journalist is a lifestyle.

In a way, since I'm on watch 24-7, I'm working 24-7.

Now, I'm not just saying this so you'll feel bad for me or anything like that. I just think that far too many of our subscribers don't really understand what we do. They just know that we misspell words and pick on poor defenseless politicians.

Most of what we really do, though, is somewhat innocuous. We write about local businesses, local people, local landmarks, etc.

Like I was saying earlier, problems are inherent.

A reporter by nature becomes judgmental of everything.

"Does this have news value?" I ask myself.

News value, for those who don't speak Reportese, is the determination that a good portion of 15,000 strangers will be interested in the topic enough to not call and tell you what an idiot you are for writing about it.

The news value of this column, for example, is pretty darn low, but I'm hoping you'll cut me some slack.

Where the whole news value thing becomes a problem, however, is anywhere that I'm genuinely NOT working. Dinner at home, for example. Or outside the county.

When conversations with friends and loved ones begin to be judged by how interesting 15,000 complete strangers would find them, you know you've got a problem.

Or when you're talking with your five-year-old daughter and you have to stop her to jot yourself a note because she just said something that reminded you that you wanted to write a story about something, you know you've got a problem.

Apparently, I have a problem.

Fortunately, life goes on.

Okay, to switch gears entirely: This is column number 14 for me in my weekly series carried exclusively by Greater Niagara Newspapers. It's my first on page 3 (a new plan by US&J Managing Editor Denise Young to squeeze more into the paper). I'm hoping for syndication because that's where the real money is.

To further explain, this is a column. It's an opinionated-type piece, typically filled with personal notes and flavor and almost always accompanying a photo.

Anything that says "By Scott Leffler, Lockport Journal" is a story. It is fact based and should be void of this writer's opinion. That's rough to do sometimes, but I try as hard as possible.

Anything that is graphic in nature and was likely paid for is an ad (advertisement).

Lastly, the thing on page A8 that says "Editorially Speaking" is an editorial. It is the opinion of this newspaper, or at least the five people on our local editorial board (which you may note I'm on).

Now that we've got that straight, when you call to praise me (or even to complain) about something in the paper, please don't call a story an ad or vice-versa. It makes it much more difficult to figure out what you're talking about if I'm looking for a graphic and you're talking about a story.

So if you can do that for me, I'll try not to judge the news value of our conversation when I bump into you at WalMart or Tops.