“Quotes are like spices,” Julie Tatge told me as she gesticulated like a chef sprinkling a season on food.
As she edited my story, Julie took time to advise me on how quotes should be carefully selected and applied sparingly to garnish the story. The rest can be paraphrased, period.
That is one lesson I shall forever cherish in my life as a journalist. Julie always insisted that a reporter speak to a company official on the phone rather than through email. This practice, the business editor argued, always helps get lively quotes that have real emotion and add natural flavor to the story (organic spices I guess). Email responses often are the product of backroom corporate public relations, laced with marketing lingo and ambiguities, as Julie would say.
The second big lesson I picked up in my two months under the tutelage of Julie at the Chicago Tribune was on the use of crowdsourcing to tell locally relevant stories — mostly from statistical data sets.
I learned this when Julie tasked me to develop a story out of the jobs data that is periodically released by the U.S. government. We used Facebook to reach out to the community and managed to speak to seniors looking forward to graduation in the spring and willing to answer questions about their experiences in job hunting.
It was a long and arduous way of doing a story, especially these days when social media platforms hasten news preparation and consumption, but the end result was refreshing.
I still remember the first day I walked sheepishly into the Tribune Tower, looking rather confused. Julie received me at the reception area and gave me a quick tour of the cafeteria on the ground floor of the building, where she bought me coffee.
We later proceeded to the newsroom located on the fourth floor for a round of introductions. “We need to get you working,” Julie said as she showed me my workstation.
And for the next eight weeks, it was an educational and exciting journey for me — dash out for briefings, write stories on deadline, crunch numbers, work the desk phone, leave a lot of voice messages and even file a video story.
These are memories I will forever cherish. Julie Tatge left Chicago Tribune on Friday last week to pursue a new career at a local business magazine.