I couldn't agree more with Al's entry about discovery journalism. It's probably the main reason I've found this week to be so rewarding. But I would like to add one anecdote to help illustrate his point.
I've spent a good part of my week traveling ahead of the team trying to get a general feel for the themes we should try to focus on in the next day's story. On Wednesday I left the team in Forked Island, La. and started heading east. Al had told us there were a lot of oyster fishermen who lived in the area and Carl agreed it might be a good opportunity to focus on the storm's effects on the seafood industry. Other than that my marching orders were fairly vague and I set out to see what I could find.
But it's a long drive to Terrebonne Parish, and by the time I made it to Houma I was pretty hungry. I had, after all, been thinking about oysters for two hours and thought I'd try to find a place to get a real Louisiana po' boy sandwich. And just when I thought I had found one, the nice woman behind the counter at The Lunch Basket restaurant told me they hadn't had oysters since the storm. Now I'm not sure if it was my inner reporter or the fact it was 2 p.m. and I'd missed breakfast, but all of a sudden I started firing questions at her like she was Scott McClellan: Which storm? Rita? Katrina? You mean you haven't had any oysters at all for more than a month? You can't get them from anywhere? Clearly not the press secretary type, she seemed a bit frazzled when she finally did reply.
"I don't want to tell you something that's not right, but the guy who we buy our oysters from just placed an order for lunch," she said. "He should be here to pick it up in about five minutes. I can introduce you if you want."
"That would be great," I said. "And I'll have the shrimp po' boy."
The "guy" she was talking about was Kevin Voisin, the younger brother of Steve Voisin. It was Steve who later offered to take Carl out in his speedboat to see the damaged oyster beds and meet some oyster fishermen. Steve also told me he had sold The Lunch Bucket oysters since the hurricanes.
"They were probably just out of them and didn't want to tell you," he said.
The funny thing is that if she had just told me they were out of oysters, I might not have started grilling her like I did, I might not have met Steve, and Thursday's story would have turned out very different. But luckily everything turned out. And the shrimp was delicious.