Published on March 20, 2014
PUTTINGTHE‘QUEST’ BACK IN QUESTION How to breathe some life into boring, predictable stories
THISTHING HAPPENED On a recent day, this thing happened. “I’m glad it happened,” said random person on one side. But not everyone feels that way. “I’m not glad it happened,” said random person on the other side. Some random data shows this. “This is why it happened,” said person with a fancy title. It might happen again in the future. “This is an insightful and conclusive quote,” said random person number one again.
HOW DIDWE GET LOST ON OUR STORY QUEST?
HOW DIDWE GET LOST? • We want stories with angles, but we assign them as topics. • Reporters need guidance in finding angles. • We tell readers what they already know or could have figured out on their own. • Ask yourself the question: what does the reasonably-aware reader already know about this? • We develop questions to collect information, not experiences. • Too much “reporting” happens out of context. • We go into reporting with a story already in mind.
People with autism, whose unusual behaviors are believed to stem from variations in early brain development, typically disappear from public view after they leave school.As few as one in 10 hold even part-time jobs. Some live in state-supported group homes; even those who attend college often end up unemployed and isolated, living with parents. But Justin is among the first generation of autistic youths who have benefited throughout childhood from more effective therapies and hard-won educational opportunities.And Ms. Stanton-Paule’s program here is based on the somewhat radical premise that with intensive coaching in the workplace and community — and some stretching by others to include them — students like Justin can achieve a level of lifelong independence that has eluded their predecessors.
“There’s a prevailing philosophy that certain people can never function in the community,” Ms. Stanton-Paule told skeptics.“I just don’t think that’s true.” With some 200,000 autistic teenagers set to come of age in the United States over the next five years alone, little is known about their ability to participate fully in public life, or what it would take to accommodate them.Across the country, neighbors, employers, colleagues and strangers are warily interacting with young adults whose neurological condition many associate only with children. AUTISM, GROWN UP Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World By AMY HARMON Published: September 17, 2011 What happens when autistic kids grow up?
ALWAYS LEADWITH EMPATHY.
GROSS: Peter told you something that I think made a lot of people just kind of gasp, which is that he said he wishes Adam had never been born. How did he look when he told you that? NPR’S FRESH AIR Terry Gross interviewing author Andrew Solomon EMPATHY
GROSS:Your book "Far from the Tree" is about parents, and this is a book you wrote a few years ago, it's about parents of children who are different, different from other children and inherently different from the parents. So you interviewed, you know, parents of children with Asperger's and schizophrenia, parents of children who were the results of rape, parents of children who became criminals. So now that you've interviewed Peter Lanza, the father of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook murderer, do your conclusions change at all? If you were writing "Far from the Tree" now, would you say anything different at the end of the book?
GROSS:There's probably a lot of people who blame Adam Lanza's parents, Peter and Nancy, for Adam Lanza's having become a mass murderer.And there's probably a lot of people who think if the parents did something different, this never would have happened. Does he feel victimized by that? ANTICIPATION + EMPATHY
CURIOSITY ISA STATE OF MIND.
KEY QUESTION • The question that drives the search for evidence (inquiry) • The engine of the story • Why are students who park in the student lot without permits not being penalized, and what is the effect of their actions?
SUBORDINATE QUESTIONS • Questions that surround and support the primary question. Often, these must be addressed before you can fully address the key question. • Who is responsible for checking the permits? • How frequently are they checked? • What happens to kids who have permits but arrive when no spots are left in the lot?
KEY SOURCES • Who can best answer the questions above? This includes:The Expert,The Other Side,TheTestifier (or The Face),The Authority. • Administration • Permit-holding students (especially those w/o first period who can’t find spaces) • Illegal parkers • Local sheriff
KEY SOURCES • The Expert • Someone with a degree of expertise on the topic. • The Other Side • Someone who hold a position opposite to that of the dominant or primary focus. • TheTestifier (orThe Face) • Someone directly affected by the issue who can provide anecdotes and details related to the story. • The Authority • Someone who has the power to institute change.
IT’S OKAYTOASSUME THAT PEOPLEARE INHERENTLY GOOD.
LINGERING QUESTIONS • After consulting the sources above, these questions still remain. Sometimes the sources above may speak to these questions but fail to answer them concretely. • How much time do students lose who have to park elsewhere? • How much money could be made off of permitless parkers? • Just how widespread is the problem?
NO MORE BUTT JOURNALISM.
INVESTIGATION • These are the means by whichThe Inquirer (that’s you, the writer) goes about answering those lingering questions. • Be creative about how you discover the answers you seek. • This is where you add ORIGINAL RESEARCH to the existing body of work. Be brave. • Find official permit and parking policy on record • Search for records of permit violations over the past several years • Wait in parking lot for offenders to return to their cars and ask them questions • On a typical morning, count the number of permitless cars and multiply that number by the cost of a citation, discovering the potential loss of revenue
IF NOTHINGABOUT YOUR STORY SURPRISEDYOU… IS IT REALLYA STORY?
EVALUATION • Now, you organize and evaluate the strength of your evidence. • Then, if you discover more lingering questions, go back and repeat the process until all questions are answered because that’s what it’s all about. PARKING LOT STORY REPORT WHAT’S KNOWN WITH FACTS AND OPINIONS TELLTHE READER SOMETHING SHE DOESN’T KNOW
IN QUESTION-DRIVEN STORIES… LEAD • Guides the reader to the key question • Gets at the heart of the story NUTGRAF • Makes sense of the lead • Clarifies the key question (though perhaps not in the form of an actual question)
CONTACT ME Michelle Balmeo @michellebalmeo email@example.com michellebalmeo.wordpress.com Check out my kids’ work at: elestoque.org
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