Thursday, February 12, 2009

Legos and more

Scott thought I should share an exercise we did at our staff meeting this week. I asked each staffer to create simple items out of Legos. The idea was to challenge them to look at things differently and think outside the box.

For example, Sue took small, narrow yellow Legos and sandwich two small, narrow red Legos between them and said it was a hot dog. Erin took two small square red Legos, put them on top of one another and put a smaller square black Lego on top of the two red ones and said it was a Rutter's coffee cup.

We had a lot of fun with this exercise and it was neat to see what others saw. We actually did this because Erin had sent us a link to someone who had done something similar and we decided to hold a Lego contest for our readers. This exercise also provided us with examples for our Lego contest when we kick it off.

Part of the exercise was discussing how to think differently when we report and write stories. Seeing a story from all angles, not just what is directly before us. I then gave the staffers an assignment. I asked them to make five observations at a particular place and try to describe each observation. The examples I gave:

1. I was in the grocery store and noticed a spotted banana in the produce section (made the observation) and I thought about what the spotted banana looked like and I decided a giraffe's neck.
2. Looked up at the night sky and noticed moon was a sliver (observation) and said it looked like the tip of a fingernail.

You could do this exercise and attempt to make an observation using all your senses, one for each sense. For example, I looked out the window this morning and noticed that the pine tree was shaking and thought it looked like it was doing the hula hoop and heard the wind howling and decided it sounded like when I take the vacuum cleaner (just the hose and attachment) over the furniture to clean it. So I used two senses here. Obviously, when we report a story, we should be using all senses. Any exercise that challenges us to do this helps us hone these skills.

The other exercise I told them they could do was to observe someone and their environment and come up with some telling details that might give them insight into that person. For example, if you visit Sam's desk, you will notice an Edward poster, some Simpson decorations and a picture of a bulldog. What does that tell us about Sam? About the type of shows she watches or the type of books she's interested in or the breed of dog she prefers. When you're reporting a story, always pay attention to details. They might or might not end up in your story, but they can be insightful and lead to questions that reveal personality etc.

So there you have it.