College Heights Herald Explores Western Kentucky in Special A to Z Column Series

A is for Ambassador.  B is for Band Member.  C is for Chess.  D is for Dubstep.  E is for Event Planner.  F is for Forensics.  G is for Guns. . . .

Those are the first seven headlines in a yearlong 26-part series currently nearing completion in The College Heights Herald at Western Kentucky University.  “WKU A to Z” features students and a few faculty whose side-jobs, club activities, life passions, sexual identities, genetic anomalies, and professional goals can all be categorized under different letters of the alphabet.

Herald features editor Emily Patton, the series leader, said part of the paper’s aim is to spotlight people with slightly unique abilities or sensibilities whose names and faces would not otherwise be considered newsworthy.

“We wanted to take snapshots of individuals’ lives, regular Janes and Joes” said Patton, a senior news/editorial journalism major at WKU.  “A lot of times people don’t get in the paper unless they’re doing something incredibly unique or bad or really good.  So I think this series simply recognizes all the people who are special just for being themselves.”

For every letter, there is a story.  R is for Racquetball.  S is for Saxophonist.  T is for Twins.  U is for Umpire.  V is for Violinist.  X is for Xylophone. . . .

In the Q&A below, Patton discusses the series’ start, standout stories, and reporting methods.  She also offers advice for student journalists interested in similarly exploring their campuses– from A to Z.

Q: How did the series come about?

A: It was actually really simple at first.  It came down to basic mathematics.  We have 26 Friday issues a year.  We were looking for a way to have a series that would run on those 26 Fridays where we could be proactive and we wouldn’t have to worry about whether we had a story to run based on outside events. . . . There are 26 letters in the alphabet so it was just kind of “OK, 26, what can we do with that?”

We wanted to look at students who people see all the time on campus and have questions about and make up stories about in their head, like, “Oh, he’s doing that for this reason.”  For example, I was stopped at a red light on campus the other day at a crosswalk and this guy who walked by my car was juggling.  He was just doing it like it was normal, like he does it all the time.  I had no idea who he was.  But then days later I overheard people talking about “the guy who juggles.”  I thought, “Wow, that could be the same guy I saw.”  Then more people came up to tell me about him.  I sent a couple reporters on my staff out to find this guy.  It wasn’t hard.  In an hour, they found “the guy who juggles” and we are going to do a story about him.

It’s those kinds of stories that I know people will pick up and read.  It’s those kinds of stories that keep journalism around.  We want to read about other individuals and stuff that impacts us or walks right by us every day.

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