Saturday, January 14, 2012

"The IJ person"

Two days ago I submitted the first draft of the article I had been working on for my investigative journalism class. My professor, Luz Rimban, is a seasoned investigative reporter herself.

My main concern was that my story would not be "investigative" enough. This is the first time I would be writing such a report -- and I felt inadequate about my sleuthing skills. Years of being an armchair commentator, safe and comfy on my editor's desk at the office, did not prepare me for this. Even my occasional goings out for column material seemed like kindergarten compared to the task at hand.

And yet this was exactly why I had decided to take this course in the first place -- to get out of my comfort zone.

So this is the story behind my story, "Consigned to silence" (which I will of course post here, and publish in my newspaper column, once I have submitted the final draft to my professor).

Asked to think of possible topics, I handed in five suggestions -- all of which were shot down as better suited for in-depth reporting instead.

In this course, I became much more aware of the difference between "in-depth" and "investigative."

I willed a Eureka moment and it came -- I proposed a topic relating to a story I did three years ago, on DNA technology as a tool for criminal justice. I had a great starting point. My initial source was very helpful and very eager to lay the issues on the table.

Alas, one way or another, I stalled. My "story-based inquiry" did not even have a story around which to weave itself.

I flirted with the idea of changing my topic mid stream. Okay, more than flirted. I started acting on the idea, expressing my intentions to an NGO, making arrangements for a trip down to the small-scale mining sites of Camarines Norte, and going as far as forwarding a list of the people I want to interview (they NGO has offered to arrange all schedules for me).

Of course, if I had my way, I would not be going there pressed for time and desperate to have something for my project. It would, I think, be a disservice to the miners and the communities if I acted like some kind of parachute girl -- in one day, out the next, pleased that she has some material for her report. And, truth to tell, I was not sure if I was tough enough for the terrain -- literally and otherwise. Chicken or cautious?

I had another epiphany: I could actually tweak and work with what I had for the original topic.

And so I submitted the draft, Luz sent her comments, and the final assignment is due five days from now.

Commenting on my draft, Luz said she was "seeing a real good story here." It was encouraging enough. Her challenge sounded better: I needed to bring it out some more. Challenge accepted. I have never been an IJ person. I am learning -- if not for the practice, then for the discipline.

I do not have any sensational whistleblowers in my story. What I have is proof of festering neglect. Is it "investigative" enough? I do hope so! Let's wait for my final grade.

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