BACK IN QUESTION
How to breathe some life into boring, predictable stories
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
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?
• 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
“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?
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
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?
• The question that drives
the search for evidence
• 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?
• 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
• What happens to kids who
have permits but arrive
when no spots are left in
• Who can best answer the
questions above? This
(or The Face),The
• Permit-holding students
(especially those w/o first
period who can’t find
• Illegal parkers
• Local sheriff
• 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
• 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.
• After consulting the
sources above, these
questions still remain.
Sometimes the sources
above may speak to
these questions but fail
to answer them
• How much time do
students lose who have to
• How much money could be
made off of permitless
• Just how widespread is the
• These are the means by
whichThe Inquirer (that’s
you, the writer) goes about
answering those lingering
• Be creative about how you
discover the answers you
• This is where you add
ORIGINAL RESEARCH to
the existing body of work.
• Find official permit and parking
policy on record
• Search for records of permit
violations over the past several
• Wait in parking lot for offenders
to return to their cars and ask
• 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
IS IT REALLYA STORY?
• Now, you organize and
evaluate the strength of
• 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.
IN QUESTION-DRIVEN STORIES…
• Guides the reader to the
• Gets at the heart of the
• Makes sense of the lead
• Clarifies the key question
(though perhaps not in the
form of an actual question)