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Pick of the Day: Finding stories anywhere

A couple weeks ago, as part of something we call our "coffee house newsroom" project, the Story Lab team fanned out to different coffee shops to find stories. Then last week the team took similar approach, this time in Chinatown in the aftermath of a large brawl that erupted on the Metro.

Our project has been praised and maligned. It is also not the only project of its kind. The weekend after it started, the folks at This American Life attempted something similar, except instead of coffee shops in the Washington region, they chose the state of Georgia. More specifically, they dispatched nine reporters to small towns in different counties in the state. Their mission was to find the most interesting person in town.

The idea was inspired by Charles Salter, who in the 1970s wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal called "Georgia Rambler." As host Ira Glass explained, Salter would get into his car, head out to some small town, and ask around until he found a story.

My personal favorites were the last two, a story from Sarah Koenig about Sonya Mallory and how she came to become mayor of Jeffersonville, a town of about 1200, and a piece by Chuck Salter, son of the Georgia Rambler columnist, who revisits a man his father once wrote about named Windell Cleveland.

For anyone who wonders if "coffee house newsroom"-type efforts are a waste of time or overly contrived, I would argue that it is just another iteration of what journalists do everyday -- Iook for stories. The difference is in the execution. I loved what TAL did. But you tell me. Did it work for you?

By Annys Shin  | August 16, 2010; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks, coffee house newsroom  
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