Andrea Rondeau column: Special section juggling act

At their heart, this is the foundation of all news stories. What do we want to know?

Putting together a special section is kind of like juggling a whole bunch of balls in the air, with the aim of catching them one by one and putting them down to rest just so before the spotlight goes out.

OK, maybe that’s a bad analogy, since I can’t juggle to save my life. Truly, I’ve tried it, and the balls inevitably end up on the ground and my hands thrown up in the air instead.

But it makes the point. First, when we start thinking about doing a special section like today’s on the amalgamation referendum for North Cowichan and Duncan we brainstorm. What questions do we have? In this case there were many, and so we set out to answer them. At their heart, this is the foundation of all news stories. What do we want to know? If we have questions, other people will, too.

Next, everybody gets assignments. Some of them are for sure stories, some are more iffy, as whether they ever see print will be determined by the responses we get to our questions. At this stage, we can also find out things we didn’t know or hadn’t previously considered, that send us off in another direction.

One of the biggest considerations for something like this is making it interesting and digestible. You say the word amalgamation and it sounds boring. It sounds dry and full of technical nitty gritty that will make your eyes drift shut. We want to avoid that. We need to make it informative, yes, but also readable, and not in a textbook fashion. To this end we set word counts. Everyone can survive a bit of broccoli, even if they cringe at the thought of an entire plate full.

As we started digging into it, I confess I was surprised by how many fun and interesting facts there are on the subject. Did you know that a bunch of properties are actually in both municipalities? Bizarre! That Duncan is the smallest city in Canada? That the split happened in the early 1900s?

And there are serious questions worthy of thoughtful consideration: will there be job losses? What about taxes?

While our section may not tell you absolutely everything you want to know, I hope it will tell you a lot. I learned a lot in the production of it. And you’ll find links to sources for even more information for those who love and can’t get enough broccoli and live for a good technical study.

To sign off I’ll just add this: send me letters! I want to know what you think of amalgamation and what it could mean for our area.

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