Sniffing out Washington stories in a coffee house
Some stories require a reporter to go to a specific place, a crime scene, a school, a sports arena or a government office. Some stories, sadly, get reported in the worst possible place -- the newsroom, where phone calls and email can never really capture the nuance of an event or the emotional reality of a character. But the best stories come from the most unexpected places.
There's a truism in journalism that says stories are everywhere, that every person contains the material for a story that can reveal to readers some essential truth about who we are and the pressing questions of our time.
To test that theory, six Washington Post reporters this Wednesday will fan out to coffee houses in Virginia, Maryland and the District to find stories that tell us something about the way we live today. These may be stories about individual people who are struggling to make ends meet, or to find love or happiness, or to map out their futures. Or they may be stories about places and events that shape our lives. Each reporter is tasked with finding a story in one room, one gathering spot. The reporters have just a few hours to identify their story, report it out, write it up and send it in to their editor.
All day long, you'll be able to follow their progress -- or send suggestions -- in real-time
here on the blog or via Twitter (we'll use the hash tag #storylab). By evening, all six stories will be posted here on Story Lab.
Then Story Lab readers really take over. You can read the stories and then choose the one that best captures life in these parts, the one that most effectively tells some important truth about how we live now. By your vote, you will choose which of the stories becomes the main ingredient in the Coffee House Newsroom package that will then be published in The Washington Post in print and online.
After this experiment, we'll be asking you what was missing from these stories--what themes, issues, realities we didn't get to in this first round of stories. We'll then use your suggestions to assign reporters to another, more targeted set of stories.
This week's experiment will take place at the coffee houses listed below -- please feel free to drop by and talk to the reporters on Wednesday starting at 9 a.m. Maybe they'll choose to tell your story, or maybe they'll be more intrigued by that quiet, lonely woman sitting over in the corner, the one whose story tells us much we need to know....
View Story Lab: Coffee house stories in a larger map
St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, 2300 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA
Caribou Coffee, 11947 Grand Commons Avenue, Fairfax, VA
Java Shack, 2507 N. Franklin Rd., Arlington, VA
Starbucks, 121 Market St., Kentlands, Gaithersburg, MD
The Coffee Bar, 1203 Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Big Chair Coffee, 2122 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, Washington, DC
Ebenezers Coffeehouse, 201 F St. NE, Washington, DC
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