The Story That Took Me Six Weeks To Write
Sometimes stories take a lot longer to assemble than you think they will. When I learned that Purdue men’s basketball coach Matt Painter had won the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge and that he’d try to steer research dollars to a local cause, I thought it might be worth a quick story, especially with the team heading to the NCAA tournament at the same time.
I caught up with Painter before his team headed to Louisville, talked to the Purdue researcher and his graduate students who’ve been tackling research on a rare disease called Niemann-Pick Type C and then got in contact with a local man who’s lost two kids to the disease.
It took another month before I could talk to Trent Smith about the Smith Family Breakthru Fund and his family’s personal experiences with the disease. At one point, he had to reschedule because he had a funeral to go to. My heart sank. I knew he had a third child battling the disease and I hoped I wasn’t asking him to both be in my studio and attend a third family funeral simultaneously. That proved not to be the case, thankfully, though I’m sure losing a family friend wasn’t something he wanted, either.
I could have done the story just talking to the researchers, but it would have lacked a certain amount of emotion — it wouldn’t have felt like the personal story everyone (from Painter to the researchers to the family) told me it is. So we waited patiently until all the pieces came together before running the story this week.
I fear that, had I been working for a commercial media outlet, I wouldn’t have had the ability to hold the story as long as we did. We’d have been under pressure to run it immediately after the online voting ended and Painter was declared the winner. I’m glad we took the extra few weeks and focused first on telling multiple sides of the story as well as we could (and, hopefully, finding a slightly different angle from which to do so). In the end, I think the product was better for it.