Readers often ask where our story ideas come from.
Most come from well-sourced beat reporters. Many come from readers pitching us an idea. (Share yours at email@example.com.)
Occasionally, story ideas come from real-world experiences shared among newsroom co-workers who discover that what they’re experiencing is happening to our readers as well.
Look only as far as today’s front page for an example of the latter.
News Tribune business reporter John Gillie and business editor Debbie Cockrell exchanged escalating tales of woe recently as each sold one home and bought another.
“In my case,” Gillie said, “my wife and I expected an arduous process, but the complications, the level of detail and inquiries, and lack of coordination by people involved in this business astounded and alarmed us.
“We signed literally hundreds of documents, all seemingly on a must-have-now basis. We faxed signatures and documents from hotels and airports, responded by text from a previously scheduled cruise and stayed up well past midnight numerous times reading what we were signing.
“The closings both on our sale and our purchase were postponed five times. Because of what seemed like over-the-top requirements, we lived in a motel for 10 days and paid to store our household goods for a like time.
“On the day that we were to receive our keys (and furniture, cable hookup and new refrigerator) we got a call from the title company that the papers we had signed five days before were bad because they listed the wrong date. That triggered a complete re-signing and a day’s delay in getting into the house.”
Cockrell and her husband were about two weeks behind the Gillies when they put their house up for sale this spring.
“We had a full-price offer within weeks,” Cockrell said, “and we had to be out of our home by the end of the month.
“I had never simultaneously bought and sold homes before, so the process dramatically showed how on-the-ball someone in the market has to be with all the lending regulations. I made PDFs of bank statements and pay stubs on my iPad so my mortgage company could make same-day turnarounds to the underwriter’s queries.
“I made hotel reservations and called a mover as soon as we signed the sale agreement on our house. I tried to estimate dates for the move, which ultimately got delayed because of an appraisal review. Our stuff went to storage, and then we were at the mercy of the movers’ schedule for their next delivery window.”
Their closing bumped into the July 4 holiday, so the title company arranged for a notary to meet them for signing in the deli section of a Haggen grocery store.
“John and I both decided we needed to tell people that yes, this is a great time to sell and buy,” Cockrell said, “but you have to be flexible, savvy and patient with everyone you work with.”
Hopefully, home-buying readers can learn from their experiences.
My husband and I had a happy ending of another sort after working for six months last year to buy a condo.
We struck out after: a) dealing on a property that didn’t meet VA approval; b) having a full-price offer rejected; and c) learning our lender had inadvertently opened multiple mortgage applications for us at once.
Apparently credit rating companies frown on that.
Rather than persevere, we spent our down-payment money on a motorcycle and have been touring the countryside on it ever since.
FROM THE READER MAILBAG
TNT reader Tracy wrote last week to ask about our headlines.
“I was wondering why the headlines in the online version explain the article better than the print version. The headlines you put in the print version leave a lot of ambiguity to the meaning of the article.”
An example was our story about Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signing a new contract.
The online headline read: “Russell Wilson, Seahawks agree to four-year, $87.6M extension”
The print headline read: “In the nick of time.”
First, online headlines are unfettered by column widths, so we can use as many words as we like. In print, we often can squeeze in only a few words.
“Second,” I wrote to Tracy, “we try to be more direct online, because oftentimes people find our headlines by searching Google or another online service using key words like ‘Tacoma,’ or ‘Seahawks.’ If we put those words in a headline, we have a better chance of readers finding our stories when they search.”
“In the paper, we can be a bit more clever or enticing because we don’t have to include those specific proper nouns.”
We also can pack the details into a subhead beneath the headline.
Good question, Tracy. Thanks for asking.