The story behind the story about a place of stories

Pine Hills LibraryTwo months ago, in a classroom not too far away…

More stories should begin like that, at least according to this Star Wars fan.

But this is the story about getting a story.  And doing it journalistically, not in the usual blogger style.

Like the movie franchise, this semester’s grad school “Online Journalism” class at The College of Saint Rose has been a trilogy.  Class members were assigned three stories.  At times, the challenge of writing those stories seemed almost as difficult as attacking a Death Star.  After all, your blogger -ahem- “hero” is not used to writing journalistically.

The first story, an alumni profile went quite well.  The second, a story researching the relationship between the Albany Common Council, the Albany City School District, and the Race to the Top program… not so much.  It was more akin to the ending of Empire Strikes Back with writer, like the Rebellion, feeling in disarray and somewhat defeated.

Your “hero” needed a third story.  It had to be relevant to the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany.  (That’s the neighborhood where Saint Rose is located.)  The goal was to publish it in the Times Union’s Pine Hills Blog. But what to write about?

Thankfully, the blogger’s wife, a wonderful librarian, suggested writing a story about the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library.  While a story about the library facilities had already been published on the Pine Hills blog, an opening existed for a story about its activities.

Thus began the story of how the library is a force for good within the Albany planetary system, more specifically on the planet of Pine Hills.

You see, the Pine Hills Library caters to a community as diverse as that which you might find in a Coruscant cafe.  It does so, not just with its books and computers, but also with the activities occurring on a daily basis.

Your blogger piloted his rusty spacecraft a few parsecs to the library on three separate occasions.  He attended activities that included toddler story time, family craft time, an afternoon movie (not Star Wars, though), a colored pencil workshop, and the Frequent Fibers Club – a knitting group.

He interviewed the librarians setting up rooms, the program leaders, and a wide variety of participants.  They were young, and they were old.  Some walked to the library.  Others drove themselves and their younglings to attend events on a regular basis.  Many were stay-at-home mothers and fathers, watching their little ones run around the stacks of books like Ewoks running through the forests of Endor.

It was a story of community in a place where participants themselves were surrounded by stories.

With a sigh of relief, the blogger’s journalistic story was eventually posted to the Pine Hills blog.

At the end of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker discovered that Darth Vader wasn’t quite so evil.  In a similar manner, your blogger realized that journalism is not as bad as he feared.  He learned a great deal:  from fact-checking to the use of AP Style and beyond.

Still, this tongue-in-cheek blog post demonstrates just how different blogging can be from journalism.  Yet at the same time, the two styles do complement each other.

Ironic, perhaps?


Author’s note:  this blog post was created in part as a script to be used during a classroom presentation about the story posted on the Pine Hills blog.

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  1. springtimesoul

     /  November 29, 2010

    reminds me of the days of Luke Warmwater and Chewing Tobacco–you and Kenny V and your comic books.


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