Go where the story leads you

Early on in my professional career when writing feature articles, I learned to keep an open mind when it came to pursing a story and take the story where the quotes and facts lead you. After all, isn’t it easy to try to sway the story a certain direction?

Back around 2001, I wrote a feature article for the San Antonio Express-News about POW/MIA bracelets. As I researched and interviewed, I expected to find an overwhelming amount of people with them along with a huge outcry over those who were still unaccounted for. I found one soldier in San Antonio who collected and wore the bracelets who was willing to be interviewed. I also interviewed two former POWs who both told me they did not believe anybody was left behind.

More recently, when I first wrote my feature on Walmart two years ago, I fully expected to interview one infuriated store owner after another, each sounding off on how Walmart has ruined downtown Clio, Michigan. I found only two like that, and neither would go on record.

And, of course, you’d be really surprised what fascinating tidbits you can find when interviewing somebody. I recall interviewing one horticulturist (I won’t say who or where since I’d like to have an exclusive on this someday) who’s also a professional chef. One of his clients: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.

Then there was the Air Force lieutenant colonel who was headed to New England to run the Boston Marathon. The surname of this Boston-born and bred colonel was Richard; he was of French-Canadian descent and was a third cousin of Montréal Canadiens hockey star Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

Also, when interviewing a young, rising country star in Clio, Mich., his mother mentioned he’d recorded a duet with country music star Mel McDaniel. “Ol’ Mel”, I remembered, was one of my Dad’s favorite country music artists. A message on his website, and a few days later, I phone interviewed Mr. McDaniel for the article. Ol’ Mel couldn’t have been nicer.