August 22, 2014
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The scoop on the pooch who went to college Campus life, Inside N&E, News hits, Podcasts

Ever wonder where the ideas come from for the many stories we write throughout the year? Well, as you might expect, our sources are many.

Faculty, staff and students sometimes approach us with story ideas. A caveat: We are paid not for the stories we write but for the stories we don’t write.

That old newsroom adage goes to the heart of news judgment. It also means that “beat writers” need to be out digging for good stories on their own all year round. “Mining” news comes from staying in close contact with key faculty, college/department leaders and students—and from periodically “walking the beat” (just as cops used to do).

You’d be surprised at the great stories that can be found on a simple stroll around campus. For example, waaay back when I was a fresh, young reporter covering the College of Engineering for University News, I spotted a flyer, in Building 9, for the now popular “RIT Football—Undefeated Since 1978” T-shirts (created by RIT’s Institute of Industrial Engineers student chapter—and, at the time, known largely to engineering majors only). Well, that little story—which began as a flyer on a wall—made it onto a TV newscast and into The Chronicle of Higher Education.

What are people talking about around campus? The answers provide fodder for other stories, such as this one from a few winters ago about RIT’s so-called ‘brick juice.’

In addition to writing for News & Events and other internal channels, we also “pitch” our stories to outside news media. But on rare occasions, a media outlet becomes our source for RIT news. That was the case with my story about “Buster,” RIT’s first-ever guide dog in training who spent a portion of this year living on campus with first-year industrial engineering major Betsy Khol.

I first learned about Betsy and Buster upon reading a story in the Vienna (Va.) Connection about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an organization that trains and gives dogs, free of charge, to the blind or visually impaired. The article, profiling Betsy’s family and another couple who raise and train future guide dogs, made only a passing reference to RIT (appropriately, because the story wasn’t about RIT). But I knew I had stumbled upon a great human-interest story for News & Events.

As I wrote in a blog post a few months ago, a nice thing about my job now that I no longer cover a specific college beat is that I’m free to occasionally pick and choose among good stories. So, in late February I contacted Betsy via Facebook. We arranged a time to meet for an interview and photos with University News photographer Sue Weisler.

In addition, I invited Betsy and Buster in for a Studio 86 interview a few days later (Betsy did the talking, but Buster really was with her). So, my N&E story features—as more stories should—“Web extras”: Links to a photo gallery, the podcast and other useful resources.

I hope you enjoy reading my story about Betsy and Buster in the commencement edition of News & Events as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Lastly, congratulations to all graduates—with special kudos to friend and colleague Will Dube, receiving his master’s in public policy this weekend. And, have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

 
  1. sue
    May 22

    That's so true, Mike, about "walking the beat". As I walk around campus and chat with faculty and students on my photo assignments, I find out about things I never would have known about. We can't rely on people to call us and often ideas/interesting stories just pop up in casual conversations.

  2. kelly redder
    May 22

    fabulous bit of blogging here. i enjoyed it immensely!

  3. sue
    May 22

    Your story about Buster branched out in an unexpected way for me. Originally, you needed one shot for News & Events. As I photographed Betsy and her guide dog, I realized there was enough variety and a wonderful sequence for a web photo gallery. And it's one of my favorites!

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