September 3rd, 2007
What am I doing here? Part II
By Ron Sylvester
Call us the power quartet of techno reporting. Ron, Kamal, David and Rod.
I’m Ron Sylvester, legal affairs reporter for The Wichita Eagle, and we hope this blog will make the transition to a web-based journalism world a little less daunting.
A few days ago media blogger Howard Owens posted some “epiphanies” that shaped his current thinking. He challenged other media bloggers to do the same. Here are mine:
In the early 1990s, I started to use the Internet to replace calls to the library to do basic research. I found I could email stories to my editor, although at that time at the newspaper I worked for in Missouri, we had one computer capable of getting email. I found a couple of early social networking sites called “community bulletin boards” and was able to reconnect with some old friends.
Within six years, I’d heard people talking about computer assisted reporting, and I loved the potential timesavings, looking through thousands of records on a computer. Wow! It took about two hours for the slow computer I had to load in a database and run the first query. I hit “enter” and took a long lunch.
By 1998, I’d gotten rolling on projects. I produced a restaurant inspection project, as many other papers had. When I get started on learning a new skill set, I rarely break new ground, preferring to go with the tried and true, until I get more comfortable. That’s what I did here.
The next year, however, I did try something different. I learned the EPA was requiring drinking water suppliers to inform their customers about the qualities of their drinking water. We had some 300 suppliers in our area. I obtained the statewide database and, with the help of someone who knew more about computers in marketing, created a lookup table on our newspaper’s relatively new web site where people could type in their zip codes and get their drinking water report.
That project caught the attention of The Wichita Eagle, which hired me for an opening covering courts.
Since then, I’ve filed live from the courtroom of several high profile murder trials, including the BTK plea and sentencing, arming myself with a smart phone and a foldaway keyboard. I blogged about my surreal experience during the plea and sentencing of the BTK serial killer. Almost a year ago, I began seriously learning audio and video.
Then in the spring, I started blogging about my personal experiences at a blog I called Multimedia Reporter. I began doing this at the encouragement of Katie Lohrenz, our online content developer and my new media spiritual adviser, and Mindy McAdams, whose blog everyone interested in the on-line journalism world ought to have in their reader.
Then I got a call from Christine Tatum, who asked me if I’d like to move the blog.
And the quartet formed.