“It’s a concept piece.” I’ll say this when the puzzled look forms, after the questioner has asked the most reasonable of questions: What’s your story about?
The answer doesn’t help explain the story necessarily. It’s usually just a desperate effort to make my convoluted explanation seem sensible.
The concept piece is the hillbilly cousin to the more urbane think piece. It’s just as analytical, but typically explores lighter subject matter. I like doing concept pieces. I even enjoy the challenge of trying to explain them to people, up to a point. “You’ll get it when you see the story,” is the last, desperate explanation.
I’ve done several concept pieces in recent weeks. The story about the Decatur Book Fair-in-the-age-of-Kindle was easy to explain. It was my idea. I’m one of the few TV reporters who doesn’t feel it’s beneath them to cover book fairs or cat shows.
(It should have been easy to execute, too. But try to find somebody actually reading a Kindle in Decatur. Go ahead, try. The coffee shops are slammed with laptop users and — gasp — readers of actual books and magazines. But in three coffee shops, I couldn’t find a single person reading a book on a Kindle or Ipad, until Richard Crabbe and I left Decatur and headed to Georgia State University.
(This, of course, would lead many to question the very concept of my concept story. But I was untroubled by the absence of Kindle readers in my age-of-Kindle story. The evidence was too strong, as any bookstore owner will tell you.)
The concept story about the Dunwoody firefighter hosting a 9/11 climb up a staircase was a bit more difficult to explain. The firefighter was doing it to raise money for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation. He wanted to give folks a taste of a meaningful 9/11 experience. My job was to climb the 27-story staircase with him (twice, it turned out), then write the hell out of it so that it was somewhat analytical.
Climbing the staircase was much easier than writing the story. And much, much easier than explaining it to puzzled producers.
The third piece I pitched thusly: Labor Day begins the slippery slope to Christmas.
Those of us who are in no hurry to put reindeer antlers on our car hoods got it pretty quickly. A two-month long Christmas season is already too long.
But it also met with puzzlement. You’re doing a story on– the calendar? What?
“It’s a concept piece.”