Every good journalist understands the importance of a follow-up story.
If you’re sitting in the Athens City Council meeting when members are discussing the purchase of a new fire truck and give examples of towns where universities have helped fund said trucks, a good journalist talks to every school mentioned and writes a follow-up story.
It’s one of the most important tenets of journalism and separates the good journalists from the mediocre, the passionate from the mildly enthused.
I’m not sitting here saying I’m this awesome journalist, but during my print journalism tenure, though short, I have learned how important that is through trial and error and getting beat on stories.
So when I was writing my story about the new “guns in bars” law (which went into effect Friday), and chain restaurants couldn’t tell me what their policy was going to be, my journalistic sixth sense set off flashing lights in the back of my mind.
As each and every chain restaurant directed me to its corporate office, it became clear this would not be an easy feat.
It’s normally very difficult to get chain restaurants to talk, but when an extremely controversial issue such as the gun law arises, my desk phone is not going to be ringing off the hook with corporate officials clamoring to talk about their stances on guns and alcohol.
A source once angrily declared over the phone that journalists were persistent gnats that never went away until they got some sort of answer, like fruit flies on a rotten banana. Though insulting at the time, he was relatively accurate. We want an answer, and we will do whatever necessary to get it.
So I hopped in the car, maps in hand, and drove throughout Columbus, hitting all the major chain restaurants and demanding an answer from the general managers.
Most of them didn’t know or claimed not to know, so they directed me to corporate — which, of course, didn’t return phone calls.
Although that’s pretty annoying, it became a great story about how there was so much confusion surrounding the new law and how no one is trying to educate restaurants about the specifics of the law.
The whole experience just goes to show that a simple follow-up story — with no real direction at the time of its inception — can expose a real flaw to something and hopefully effect change. And that’s every serious, passionate journalist’s goal.
Alex Stuckey is a senior studying journalism and assistant managing editor of The Post. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.