BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Sometimes a hard-to-get source appears when you least expect it.
You come across them and must be doubly attentive and prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. You never know when you will encounter a story, our editors often tell us during training, but I had never experienced this until now.
I was reporting a story on the Banco de Alimentos, an organization that receives donations of food that otherwise would be discarded, then sorts them and distributes them to social organizations. I had visited the food bank and talked with employees and volunteers. My story was almost finished, but I lacked a source to close the story: a beneficiary, an organization that received the food and used it.
Such a source, which might not seem difficult to get, had eluded me multiple times. During my visit to the food bank, I spent several hours in the area where donations are collected, waiting to speak with someone from an organization – but the only volunteer who picked up an order declined to speak with me.
In subsequent days I looked for other organizations that received food, as well as for the food bank’s press liaison, but I made little progress.
I was thinking about other strategies to find these organizations, and then one weekend I was helping my sister with a task at an unrelated location when I stepped into a restroom and saw a box on the floor with the Banco de Alimentos logo.
I couldn’t believe it. After weeks of searching and making phone calls, I had come by chance to a place that at least had the boxes that the food bank used to distribute food.
The first thing that came to my mind was the voice of Austin Bachand, GPJ’s visuals editor. He advises us to take our cameras with us everywhere. I groped around in my backpack and was glad to feel the small cloth bag where I carry my journalist kit: the camera, tape recorder, batteries, notepad, pen, press pass and business cards.
Despite the advice, the truth is that – a little because of the fear of theft and also for the sake of comfort – I don’t always carry my equipment with me, let alone on weekends. But, luckily, I had grabbed it that day just in case, and thanks to that I had everything I needed to do my job.
Feeling a bit shy because I had not gone to the foundation to conduct an interview, I approached the director of the Fundación Peumayen, a home and day care center for people with mental disabilities, and asked whether her organization worked with the Banco de Alimentos. She said yes. I told her my story, and, although she was as surprised as I was by the coincidence, she agreed to give me an interview.
I pulled out a recorder, notepad and pen from the backpack and started the interview, while I mentally thanked Austin for insisting that we carry our cameras. I also congratulated myself for having listened to him.
The foundation director’s input is important for the story, because it shows the result of donating food rather than discarding it. This experience taught me that we never know when we will find a story and that it is crucial to always be prepared to cover it.
Lourdes Medrano, GPJ, translated this blog post from Spanish.