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How do I write?

A lot of times when people ask me about my job, they want to know how I write my stories. "With a computer" is my usual answer, but that doesn't seem to suffice. I'm guessing "By letting Rowdy walk around on the keyboard" won't work either.

I can't really give an answer that fits every situation — because every story is different — but I'll attempt, just for those curious minds.

I often cover school board meetings and other events. So I'll use that as my example.

I sit back, usually with a copy of the agenda, and sometimes turn on my recorder (as a back up for anything I have questions on later). Then I take a lot of notes. I write down lots of facts, quotes, anything I might need later. I also put a big question mark next to things I need clarified so I remember to ask when the meeting is over.

Once it's over and I have all the information, I think about my readers. I want my story to convey the most important actions/discussions/themes/information that came from the meeting. Sometimes I have to ask my editors what they think may be important, but usually I can tell by just being at the meeting.

Newspaper articles should be written like an upside-down triagle: The most important, or biggest facts, should be at the top; the least important, or least relevant facts, should be at the bottom. (Sidenote: You know where I first learned that? In a 4-H project handbook.)

Why do we write like this? It's simple, really. If a story is too long or if other stories need to fit on the page, editors should be able to easily delete the information at the end of the article. By putting the least important information last, it ensures your readers get the information they need. It also draws the reader into the story so they'll want to read more.

Once I've decided on the order, I usually like to type out all of my important quotes first. I wasn't trained to do that, it's just something I picked up a while ago. It's my way of making sure I don't forget to include them in the article, I guess.

When it's all done, I do a final read-through. Sometimes I have to call and ask more follow-up questions. And, of course, I have spelling and grammar to fix. Then our editors get a check before it goes on the page, and our copy editor gives it one last look-see before it goes to press.

Now, are my stories perfect every time? By no means. I'm human, and so are my editors, so we always will make mistakes.

But I do put my very best effort into my work. I hope people see how much time, effort and thought goes into writing an article — or sometimes just a sentence.

Sometimes the words and information just flow like a fountain; other times I'd rather have a root canal than finish a story. (Writer's block is real!)

Every day, every person, every story is unique. That's what makes the newspaper interesting, I believe. Actually, that's what makes life interesting.

Do you have any questions for me? Want to know something about my job? Or just The Bryan Times in general? Leave a comment below, or e-mail me at tami@bryantimes.com.

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