BY W.H. “CHIP” GROSS
As outdoor writers, seldom do we pen hard-hitting, investigative-type stories. Rather, what most of us write are “feel-good” pieces: how-to, where-to, personality profile, nostalgia, humor, etc. These are the kinds of stories I prefer to write, and I’m guessing you do, too.
That said, there is something I do with my magazine articles that probably not too many other writers do. If time permits, I send a draft of the story to the person who was my main source of information and ask him to check it for accuracy and any pertinent information that may need added.
For example, I recently received a magazine assignment to write a 1,000-word story about camping at a certain national park. I hadn’t visited that particular park in quite a while, so I first did some research homework — both online and off — then reviewed my notes and photos from my last trip to the park. After that, I wrote the initial draft of the story.
I then contacted the media-relations person at the park and asked if she would like to review the story before I sent it to my editor. She was more than willing, and what I received in return a few days later was a half dozen edits that not only increased the accuracy of my story, but updated it as well.
I also do this with personality profiles. After interviewing a person and writing the story, I email the person a draft and ask him to please check his quotes for accuracy and context. Again, the people I interview are more than willing to help. In fact, I’ve never had anyone turn me down.
No one wants to be misquoted, particularly government types. Biologists are especially appreciative of the opportunity to check their quotes and the other technical information contained in a story. It helps put them at ease as to what to expect when the story finally appears in print or online.
All of this takes time, of course, so I like to get started on a magazine assignment as soon as I receive it. That gives me plenty of extra time to send the story out for review, receive a reply, and incorporate the suggested changes. The end result is always winwin. The person who was the information source for the story wins because he or she knows they won’t be misquoted; and I, as the writer, win because I’m producing a better product. Ultimately, the magazine’s readers win, too.
When the story is finally published, I always try to remember to send a copy to my sources. It’s a simple thank-you gesture, showing them that their time and effort really did result in a finished story. I’ve found that little extra touch goes a long way in fostering goodwill. People remember how they were treated by you as a writer, and if you ever have to return to them for information help in the future, they’ll be more than happy to work with you again. ◊
Freelance writer and photographer W. H. “Chip” Gross (www.chipgross.com) has been an OWAA member since 1986. He served a three-year term on the board of directors from 2004 to 2007, and is a member of the magazine and photography sections. He’s also been the winner of many EIC awards through the years.
BY W.H. “CHIP” GROSS