The Writing Writer
Writing an article for the UIS Observer is rewarding but also a little intimidating. While the articles that I submit are not going to be graded according to a particular rubric, every word and phrase is scrutinized by an audience of one: myself. As a communication major, it’s no secret that I like to talk a lot. Being able to turn thoughts and words into text that eventually become a feature article, my constant thirst for attention is quenched again and again. As a staff writer for the Observer, I attend a weekly meeting where we discuss ideas for articles, exchange writing tips, and otherwise fellowship with other journalists. The virtual meetings are a lot different than the newsrooms that one might see in pop culture films and TV shows. I don’t have a traditional boss or editor-from-hell. In fact, much of my job as a staff writer requires me to be a self-starter. After “the pitch” – where I describe the subject of my article – I must develop a plan. A few years ago, I had an idea to write about the Illinois State Armory, which was at one time the premier concert hall in Springfield but eventually fell into disrepair and experienced a long period of closure.
To get inspiration for my subject, I grabbed a point-and-click camera and photographed the perimeter. I imagined people in long lines, the waft of grass and long hair as they waited to see the Eagles for just $4.00. The venue also hosted the legendary rock band, KISS on their first world tour in 1974. Longtime residents of Springfield may be familiar with the escapades of Van Halen when they literally tore the place up and had to answer to the Sangamon County sheriff as a result. More than just rumor-milling, my job as a journalist requires me to do intensive research. Before writing about any of the above stories, it is important for me to verify authenticity of each account. Quotes from people who attended the concerts as well as archived photos and articles help to create a story that is interesting for people who are learning of these events for the first time, but they also make for great trips down memory lane for those who were around to see AC/DC or Martin Luther King, Jr. when they visited town, respectively.
Local author and former concert promoter Len Trumper was responsible for bringing many of the music acts to town and said it was as easy as calling a band’s manager to see if they would stop to play in Springfield between dates in St. Louis or Chicago. Trumper mentioned that the cost-of-service fees, insurance and security would make such events almost impossible today.
Other stories, like one written about Dumb Records and Arcade, were more explorative and based on individual experience. I believe it’s important to highlight people, places, or things that I consider important. Each individual journalist can use their unique voice to inform, give thoughtful opinion, or tell the stories of those in our communities from our own point of view. Being a staff writer facing deadlines for the Observer reminds me that the only way to get things accomplished is to act.