… I’ve been seeing this phrase pop up a lot, recently, and it’s a pretty good summing up of how I’ve felt about the things I’ve written so far. Weak tea: fills the cup, but there’s not much there.
Mostly I’m down on the things I’ve chosen to write about. This past weekend, the assignment was to go find a story on our beat at one of the following locations: a sports event, a religious event, or a funeral home. After a lot of poking around and a lot of talking to various people, I still wound up with a lame story about a pedestrian bridge over to the Bronx due to be reopened next year which, as it turns out, nobody around either endpoint feels strongly about. (The Manhattan end is in a park which contains the two baseball games I was originally scoping out when I walked up there. Pretty frickin’ tenuous connection, but it was what I had when I was on deadline.)
Yesterday I went out to do a little radio piece on an event with a beginning, middle, and end. Classmates chose all-night fish markets, AM newspaper distributors… me? My brain froze up and I suggested the surprisingly coordinated parking dance on street cleaning days, as everyone simultaneously double-parks on the other side of the street, waits for the cleaner, and moves back. Went out yesterday morning to tape it, and was putting it together last night. It’s a total yawner. I made stupid mistakes – didn’t ask one guy to turn his car radio off while I interviewed him, which made him nearly uneditable, and got sufficiently engaged in conversation with another subject that I animatedly talked over the end of what would have been a great line to include in the piece – and asked inane questions.
To be fair, I wasn’t expecting to show up at J-school and suddenly be interviewing shadowy government sources in parking garages or writing “The Corner .” Hoping, certainly; expecting, no. I’m just feeling a little disheartened at my lack of ability to discern a good, interesting story. I can write enough to fill a given word-count, but I’m not really happy with what I’ve produced.
Then again, after a restless night of odd, urgent/responsible dreams, I produced another cup of tea this morning on a stove with a serious warning label. Despite the dire warnings, I made my cup of Irish Breakfast tea without dying. So maybe the lesson I need to learn in journalism is the same one I’m learning with this stove: Any cup of tea you can walk away from is a good one.