The Operation Rio Grande story, “Operation Rio Grande may not be prepared, or be the answer, for homeless addicts“, idea stemmed from a discussion I overheard with a girl who worked at one of the treatment centers receiving financial disbursement from Operation Rio Grande. She was saying how awful it was because the place was not prepared when people began to come in and it negatively affected other clients. Originally I was planning to focus on the clients who were negatively affected.
I located sources by asking people that were too close to me to interview, to refer me to someone else. In an attempt to tell every side I tried to speak with someone that was an advocate for addicts, someone in government, and an addict themselves. The biggest ethical issue and moral dilemma I faced was I am a drug addict and alcoholic myself and inherently bias. By finding sources from a variety of places I hoped to counteract that bias.
As I interviewed people the focus of the story changed so I re-directed and was able to “make sense” of the new focus by listening to what my interviewees were telling me. The writing process consisted of me typing out all the conversations I recorded, reading through them, then I found the story. I was able to figure out an order to the story that made sense and kept it interesting by giving information upfront the reader would need to know, to understand the context, and breaking it down from there. I did not end up including an interview from a drug addict in recovery who was homeless on The Block because the one I spoke with spent time there prior to Operation Rio Grande. I felt like he couldn’t represent that side. I could not find a source who had been a success or failure from Operation Rio Grande sending them to rehab because the program is so new, but I still wanted that side represented. After reading the story I felt that because one of the clinical people is in recovery themselves that was represented without needing a separate person.
What surprised me is that the story ended up being about something else then I originally thought. At first I wanted to focus on everyone else in treatment and how they were affected by people who didn’t want to be there but then it turned into really the homeless addicts being swept up in Operation Rio Grande themselves.
I learned a lot from this experience. Being a writer at the student newspaper I found it hard to have such a long time to prepare and ended up doing my last interview about ten hours before the actual assignment was due. I discovered I do better writing on the fly and that adrenaline kicking in really motivates me, like I said I’m an addict… we do that. The other newspaper I write for, The City Journals, is a monthly paper and this experience has prepared me for future writing with them in that I can anticipate a further out deadline, letting some of that adrenaline rush go, and taking my time to get the full story.
By: Holly Vasic