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Columbia Missourian

New media, familiar truth: Columbia's stories abound

By Tom Warhover
November 30, 2007 | 5:00 p.m. CST
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

I had a microphone in my hand this week. I didn’t much like it.

The thing felt weird. I didn’t know where to hold it, and more than once I stuck my hand into the camera shot. My fellow journalists didn’t even let me touch the video camera or the fancy audio recorder when we went to Taqueria El Rodeo on Wednesday. On Thursday, the team had to return to the restaurant, because all the audio had been lost. As I write, the idea that any multimedia story will see the light of day is about as likely as the chance that Columbia will build a subway. (The rail system, not the restaurant.)

Still, I learned something about how to tell stories with multimedia. Failure rarely stops learning, and often helps. I certainly know a lot more about what not to do.

And the stories are there.

As I talked with patrons and employees of Taqueria, I could hear stories everywhere. One employee left home two years ago to provide a better life for his family, and has never seen his child born after he arrived in the U.S. A self-described “Jewish mother from Chicago” has adopted Taqueria and its employees. Next door, the owner of All Dogs-N-Cats is making a go at her own business after years in the corporate world.

Each business had a story, because each business held Columbians with hopes and fears and dreams for the future. I heard a song of the people of one corner of one strip mall in one small section of our community.

Everyone has a story.

Cesar Garcia’s story might begin in Jalisco, Mexico. He saw his older brothers working in a factory in Orange County, making good money and wearing better clothes. And he said: “I’m gonna get those pants, or those special shoes.” Or it might begin in Columbia three years ago, when his uncle and his nephew worked to start up a “taqueria,” or little taco shop. Or it might begin today, when at 29, Garcia is a manager who is proud of the authentic Mexican food the restaurant offers.

Newspapers are struggling to change. They need, as a visiting professor said to Missourian editors this week, to figure out all over again just where journalism fits in the community. The change can be uncomfortable, like holding a microphone for the first time.

It’s good to know, then, that the song of Columbia is still out there, even if I need to find new ways to find it.

I can’t write this week without making note of The Big Story.

Don’t you feel sorry for the likes of Michigan and Ohio State? Those universities’ football teams expect to be in the national championship hunt, year after year. Their fans can’t begin to feel the giddiness — the absolute joy — I hear around town.

The last No. 1 T-shirt I owned wore out five or six years ago after some 25 years. It was from the Missouri basketball team’s momentary climb to the summit. What a glorious week.

Tonight’s game will tell us whether the magic lasts beyond this moment. Here’s to hoping that this week’s T-shirt won’t have to last another 25 years.