Big stories often start out small

Dear Charlotte News,

My wife and I were visiting Charlotte in early October when I saw your October 3 issue, with a tongue-in-cheek headline on page 3 that “Cub reporters take on hard-hitting news.”

It’s true that journalism involves a lot of reporting on the small stuff that makes a community, and in my years as a reporter I got pretty good at making small stories entertaining as well as informative. But it’s also true that many big stories have started with small items in small newspapers. The 1986 scandal of American military weapons being sold to Iran first became public through a small newspaper in Lebanon after the major American newspapers hadn’t noticed it. The Point Reyes Light weekly newspaper in California battled the Synanon cult and won a Pulitzer Prize for its work. And the trivia magazine Mental Floss once listed five student newspapers at various high schools and colleges that broke big stories about unqualified officials, about spying on students and about illegal meetings behind closed doors.

When a young reporter or a wizened reporter heads out with a notebook and an assignment, there is no telling what it could become—and it could become something big.

Tom Butler
Tallahassee, Florida