Starting Point

110,438.

According to a 2011 US Census Bureau estimate, Columbia has a population of 110,438.

I have to find two that are willing to talk to me, then write about one of them. Where exactly do you start with an assignment like that?

I started, as a lot of people do nowadays, on the internet. But do you know how vast that thing is? I pulled up some of the city websites and resources that my teammates and I came up with at our first Community Beat meeting on Monday morning, the first of many brainstorming gatherings to come for the next several months. Even as I scrolled through the events listings, local business reports and curent events to get even a a hint of a starting point about someone to contact in the northeast section of the city (my assigned area for the next three stories), I was coming up short of nothing.

I looked at the clock. 4:18 p.m.

My next thought was to get in my car, drive to the area and check out what there was to see. But what would there have been to see? Everything. Even then, I needed to narrow down any idea of what I wanted to look out for. What I needed was some guidance about where to start off.

So I packed up my laptop and my notes and headed out the door. Not for the parking garage where my car had been parked, but back to the newsroom.

The buzzing had subsided slightly since the last time I had gone in for budget at 11 a.m., but there was still a steady run of workflow throughout the offices. I found Jeanne’s office and laid out what I had for her.

“I don’t know where to start, to be quite honest.”

That’s all I needed. She understood and was already prepared for the very question from any of her students. Within minutes, Jeanne handed me two solid developments that I could turn into interesting story ideas. Both are developing local businesses, one in thrift retail and one in fitness recreation. They’re two very different directions for sure, but maybe that’s what I needed. Where to go from here, that’s something I’ll have to steer next.

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