Day 9

My traffic accident story got published today. It’s my second story and one which I can call truly my own. My first published story was edited by Sir Marlon Ramos so it’s a mixture of his and my style. This story, however, is 90 percent my style with minor revisions introduced by Ms. Allison Lopez. I’m so happy.

Today I stayed at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan with Sir Marlon and I wrote two stories—one was about a fire incident and the other was about another vehicle accident in the South Luzon Express Way. I picked up the fire story over the radio while the SLEX accident was experienced by Sir Marlon first hand. My mentor broke the SLEX accident online, but he asked me to write it for print.

By this time, I had gotten used to writing fire stories. In fact, I had grown fond of them. I have memorized the essentials which need to be included and the structure that best narrates the fire incident. For a fire story you must answer the following questions:

1.       When did the fire start? When was it put out? When was it reported to firemen? How long was the fire?

2.       Who were killed and/or injured? Who responded? How many responded? Who are the arson investigators?

3.       What caused the fire? What alarm did it reach? What are the angles being considered by investigators? What were destroyed? How much was destroyed? What type of building was destroyed? What kind of place was hit by the fire?

4.       Where did the fire happen? Where exactly did the fire start? Where were the injured rushed? Where were the occupants before the fire broke out?

5.       How did the fire start? How did the fire spread? How was it put out? How did the owners or occupants escape?

So far these are the things I have noted down. They are the essentials, the barest in a fire story. With these information included, the story can already stand. Of course you can add color by being more detailed and adding quotes. However, you can only achieve these if you are in the scene of the accident.

The next question is, how do you structure the fire story? In the university, we were taught to use the inverted pyramid in writing straight news stories. Since second year, I have found this structure too vague because it tells us that we must place at the very top the most important information and the least important go down.

For me, the problem begins with the fact that what’s important for me may not be important to another person, and vice-versa. Because of this, I always wrestle with the lead. What will I put up there? Two weeks of writing straight news have demystified the inverted pyramid for me, at least when it comes to fire story.

At the very top, we must place the casualties in human life and property. How many died? How many were injured? How much was damaged?

At the same time, we place the estimated time of the day, a general description of the place where the fire broke out and the city where it happened. We can also place in the lead the amount damaged if this is significant.

 In the second paragraph, we become less general and on to the specifics. We can name those who died, the exact location and the time when the fire was put out.

Then, we can detail how the firemen responded, who called, how many fire trucks were sent, what alarm did the fire reach and similar information.

From this paragraph down, we explain how the fire started, the possible angles being investigated and the remaining information that were not yet used.

Basically we play with the information depending on their news worthiness. If the person who died or the destroyed property is popular, we can mention them immediately in the lead. If not, we can delay them until the second or third paragraph.

The fire that broke out destroyed an estimated P1.2 million worth of property after gutting four homes in a residential compound in Paranaque City. As with the other fire, however, no deaths or injuries were reported.

The firefighters refused to give information on the cause of the fire because according to them, it was still under investigation. However, this alibi is sop for the arson investigators, thus, sir Marlon said I must be more firm in requesting even only the initial findings.

Unfortunately, I failed to get the info.

For my second story, Sir Marlon asked me to write another traffic accident story which again happened in SLEX, only this time, on the Northbound lane.

Sir Marlon was caught in the traffic caused by the accident so he had primary information on the accident. He broke the news in Inquirer’s online site, but asked me to write the story for print. 

The story involved two utility vans. The first one lost control after its driver miscalculated a move. This sent the van in a spin, hitting the L-300 behind it. The vehicles stalled traffic for almost an hour before they were towed away by the SLEX Skyway patrol. 

That’s it for today. I’ll add more tomorrow.

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