I dig digging in to find a story

Truth be told, I never found writing breaking news stories that hard. You’re really just telling what happened where and, if possible, why. It’s an important role for a journalist but it never really lit a fire under me.

Not so with most of the stories I’ve written over the last several years. As a freelancer, I get to pick and choose the stories I write. My clients are not interested in breaking news, although some probably wouldn’t turn it down if I learned of something that merited immediate coverage. They’re more interested in features and details, so I get to dig deeper and find an angle and a story.

My most recent case in point involves climate change. And not the silly argument over whether it’s real or human-caused. I think those points are pretty much moot to most people. This story deals with how Colorado’s big game animals have — or more accurately, could be — affected by warmer temperatures, droughts, wildfires and a lack of habitat and plant species they need to consume.

Of course, Colorado and many other states have a lot at stake economically, too. Deer and elk hunting seasons are key to many rural areas and businesses, such as northwest Colorado where I lived for many years.

Elk herd in snow CPW 2009 190720
A small herd of elk working their way through deep snow. Credit:
Joe Lewandowski, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 12/23/2009

When I first started contacting people for this story, I was told there weren’t any concrete effects that had affected the animals. I didn’t get many facts and figures or details that would help make people read my story. Seems there’s not much direct data or studies that show deer and elk have been affected by climate change at this point.

But as I dug a little deeper and reached out to more of those who take a scientific approach to climate change, it seems there are some early warning signs. Some plant species, especially at higher elevations, are starting to struggle. Same thing for a couple of smaller animals who live at timberline and higher elevations.

So big game managers in all states should closely watch those things, along with big game herd numbers and migratory patterns, according to biologists and environmental consultants who specialize in climate change. And I plan to talk to others before I sit down and write the story.

This is the kind of story I’ve always gotten a charge out of researching, fact-checking and writing. Something you can sink your teeth into and learn something along the way. Then I strive to write a story that expresses what I’ve learned in an interesting and entertaining manner. It’s a serious subject that many people care about, so I want to do them justice, too.

To me, this is the essence of being a journalist and something I’ve taken pride in accomplishing in ways that are appreciated. Getting important information and relaying those facts is why I write my stories. I’m glad I still have the opportunity to dig deeper and tell important stories.