“Look at us, looking like old pals”

I want to do a little reflection about the orientation assignment that I had to do for the community beat. The assignment itself included going out to our assigned section of the city and talk to five people, get two story ideas from them and two additional sources that could potentially contribute to said stories. Thank goodness I was still in the Central City, AKA my current place of residence, work and overall social activity. I seriously think I would have had another breakdown if I had to scout out sources like this anywhere else.

I started the two-week project during the first couple days, knowing that I would later be bogged down by some of the other beat stories I would have to work on during the week.

After consulting the calendar of events being put on by the Daniel Boone Regional Library, I found out about a storytelling session happening at Orr Street Studios. The last time I had been to the gallery was back in high school for the debut of the literary and visual arts magazine I helped put together. I took the chance to visit again and found a really cool exhibition going on.

The event was in part for the library’s annual One Read program, as well as the studio series “Hearing Voices, Seeing Visions.” The event began with an exhibition of artwork submitted by community members with the inspiration theme “secrets.” Afterward, guests Gladys Caines-Coggswell and Angela Williams told folk tales and stories about their childhood.

While it would have been a no-brainer to ask the storyteller guests to be a part of the project, they were not originally from Columbia and would not be available for a potential future story. However, one person in the room did catch my eye, as she ladled lemonade from a punch bowl and playfully beamed at having set up the refreshments table all by herself.

Stacie Pottinger is the newest director of Orr Street Studios. I spoke with her about some of her recent projects, including working with the One Read program, the weekly studio series and her experience as a photographer. We had a nice chat and, at the end of the conversation, she was graciously willing to snap a photo of us together using my (significantly much less technical) cell phone camera.

The rest of the week was a busy one, filled with other reporting projects and a mildly successful general assignment shift. I made some phone calls and emails for more story pitches, but wasn’t able to go out and look for more stories in person until the following Tuesday.

After work, I went to a nearby church with a posting identifying it as a meeting location for a local Boy Scout troop. I walked into the church a little lost, but soon I heard the running footsteps upstairs.

I first spoke with the scoutmaster a little bit about the troop, what was going on and any events that would be happening in the future that could be turned into a story. I spoke with a few more people and, though they were helpful and friendly, didn’t find much that could be a full-length feature. As I was getting ready to leave and let the boys continue their meeting, another assistant scoutmaster asked me about the project I was working on.

He asked me the usual, like what year I am and what I wanted to do with journalism. The conversation turned back to him and I asked him what he does for a living.

After some hesitation and a smile, he said that he was a professional poker player.

Umm…come again?

Todd Trabue told me that he recently quit his job as an IT lab technician (something that rakes in quite a bit of cash) to play poker in St. Louis. In his spare time, he volunteers by helping lead the scout troop while visiting his parents who still live in Columbia.

Boom. Cool story found. Just when I was about to leave, but I’m so glad I didn’t.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to get his story in during this week, but he also mentioned that his family lives in the southwest part of town. So if anything, I can probably still use him in the future.

Looking back, the orientation assignment was really helpful in getting out to a couple places in the community and finding people to talk to. As of now, it looks like three of the people I talked to for the assignment will eventually turn into stories coming out within the next few weeks.

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