How to Develop a Story
By Elizabeth Villarreal
There’s something about the nature of a Globalist reporting trip that makes chasing the long-shot story seem especially appealing. Maybe it’s because the trip is long enough (about two weeks) that we can figure out another lead if our original one falls through. Maybe it’s because we all harbor delusions that our piece will be picked up by some international magazine (generally a silly idea, although I wouldn’t say no, BBC World). Maybe it’s because the Globalist has a long history of embracing the motto of “it never hurts to ask.” Whatever the reason, like Nitika Khaitan did in Vietnam 2014 with the Long Wall of Quang Ngai or Anisha Suterwala did in Chile in 2012 with the dark history of the ship the Esmeralda, I’ve decided to chase down my own journalistic distraction: the Avaz Twist Tower.
The Avaz Twist Tower is a 176-meter-tall skyscraper in the Marijin Dvor neighborhood of Sarajevo. In a city dominated by small-scale apartments and shops, the tower stands out. Construction started in 2006, and at the time it was somewhat of a symbol for a new chapter in Bosnian development a decade after the end of the war. When planning for this trip, I thought I was going to write an article that took this metaphor even further. Not only was the Avaz Twist Tower going to stand for the promise of economic development in the Balkans, but it was going to stand for the inevitable disappointment that happens when developers promise too much too soon.
Stories always end up changing the further you get in to them, but this phenomenon is even more pronounced when you actually have the opportunity to visit the country you are writing about. Now that I’m in Sarajevo, I’ve discovered that the Avaz Twist Tower is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. What it houses—the offices of the Avaz newspaper—are the real story. After I started digging a little bit, I’ve discovered that the newspaper’s former owner is Fahrudin Radončić—a media mogul and former presidential candidate with a history of allegations of corruption. All of a sudden, my story changed from one about economic development to one about government corruption. And as I continue to research and source, I realize that those two angles aren’t as distinct as I thought. As one of our sources told us this morning: “If you’re in Bosnia for a day, you write an article. If you’re in Bosnia for a week, you write a book. If you’re in Bosnia for longer than that, you have no idea what to write any more.”
Look out for the full article coming soon!
Elizabeth Villarreal ’16 is in Saybrook College. She can be reached at email@example.com.