Here’s the thing — journalism is transactional.  You rely on other people to feed you information that you can use to write your stories.  In exchange, your sources get to draw attention to the things that they think are important.

For instance, if you’re writing an article about a new business, you contact the business owner or spokesperson, and they talk to you, give you an interview, answer your questions, or whatever.  In return, they get to communicate their message to potential customers, they get to get the word out about their business.

Or how about if you’re interviewing a politician?  Well, again, they provide the journalist with information, and in return, they get to have their viewpoints publicized.

Perhaps you’re doing an article about health food, so you contact health experts for opinions.  In exchange for their opinions, they get their names in print, which helps to build their reputations as experts in their field.

But if you are a student, working on, oh, I don’t know, a graduate degree, for instance, and your work is only being distributed internally, or on a private website, then the transaction breaks down.  The source feeds you information, and they get nothing in return, because nobody (or only a small number of people) reads the finished reporting.

So there’s no incentive for anybody to talk to you, unless they are motivated solely by listening to themselves speak.

When I was working for the Orlando Weekly, I could simply disclose my affiliation with the newspaper, and whoever I was talking to would take me seriously enough to answer my questions.  But now that the only place that my writing is showing up is on a private website, nobody can be bothered to return my phone calls or provide me with any kind of useful information at all.  Particularly since my beat is business, where everyone is busy trying to make money, and I have nothing to offer them in the transaction of journalism.

Frankly, it’s pretty much bullshit.  Maybe I should just call myself a freelance journalist.  That would get me more respect.

The beach at Loyola Park in Chicago.  It's thawing out, and starting to look really nice.

The beach at Loyola Park in Chicago. It’s thawing out, and starting to look really nice.

Today’s another pretty nice day.  It’s not as beautiful as yesterday, but still pretty nice.

I went and walked around a little bit in Loyola Park, which is actually my backyard.

It’s starting to thaw out, finally, and the park is really great now that it’s a civilized temperature outside.

I wish I had taken my camera out yesterday, when I walked essentially the same route.  There was an excellently creepy old snowman that someone built on the beach, probably a month ago.  It was dirty and melting, and standing in the sand with weather-worn gloves serving as his snowman hands.  The image of a melting, filthy snowman on the beach was kind of horrifying, in a nice way.

Alas, today, the snowman had melted away completely.

Birds use the melting icebergs near the shore as landing pads.

Birds use the melting icebergs near the shore as landing pads.

Click the image to see the slideshow.


timetoopenthewindowsIt’s beautiful today.

The temperature is something like 50 degrees, and all the snow that’s been covering the ground for the last month is melting.

It’s not spring time yet, but you can tell it’s getting closer.  It’s certainly a good day to air out the house.

I’m pretty much posing this so that I’ll remember to check it out again when it’s time to figure out what to have for dinner.

The Chicago Reader’s list of dining options in Rogers Park.

I guess today it’s going to be back to the Land of Bridgeport. I’ve only got three story ideas so far, and that just ain’t going to fly when I need to be turning in three stories a week. I’m going to go down to to the South Side again today, and see if I can drum up some more interesting business stories.

The Bridgeport RestaurantI’ve just finished up the first half of the first quarter of my year at grad school.

That means that next week, I begin beat reporting in on the South Side of Chicago, specifically in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

My beat is business, so if you happen to have any tips about business happenings in Bridgeport (or Pilsen, or Chinatown) help a brother out and drop me an email —

Thanks.  I’ll post my better articles on the blog here, so you can critique my work publicly.