My article on lottery scamming in Jamaica appeared in the Guardian yesterday. Although the story has received a lot of coverage over the years, including on CNN and CBS, it has been a few years since anyone did a comprehensive piece. It has also been a few years since the new legislation was passed that updated a century old act that did not reflect technological improvements.
My piece is only about 800 words- it could have been more than double that, but I was advised by the editor to keep it as close to 800 as possible, as it would be more likely to be published. Alas, there was a lot of information I had to leave out. I did more than a dozen long interviews, spent hours researching and met with anonymous sources. These investigative kinds of stories take a lot of work, and even more work to condense complex issues. You must also leave on the cutting room floor fascinating quotes and stories.
This is where a good editor comes in, as you get very attached to these kinds of stories that you spend a long time on. An editor can spot repetition and what is unnecessary to the story. The editor I’m working with is perhaps the best I’ve worked with in my career of 20-plus years.
I’ve also come to think that not only do I get too attached to the stories and subjects, but perhaps academia has altered me as a journalist. Since writing a 70 page thesis and doing over a year of research on a topic, I can’t seem to do anything half-way anymore in terms of research and writing. Unfortunately, this is not so conducive to the news business, which eschews nuance and complexity, unless you have an editor who gives you free reign. This is rare, however, when news web sites are fighting with millions of competitors and readers with short attention spans and advertisers with small wallets.
I think the story turned out well, but deserves longer and more complex treatment. Perhaps it will appear in a different form elsewhere.