How stories get chosen
People sometimes ask where we get our story ideas. My usual answer is that there are numerous sources, from readers’ suggestions and anonymous tips to ideas we get from other publications or come up with on our own.
We also get lots of terrific suggestions from the many freelance writers whose work appears in these pages. The prolific Jaime O’Neill, for example, is an endless source of story pitches. His most recent cover story on the persistence of racism in America (“Shall we overcome?” Feb. 14) is just the latest among dozens of superb pieces he has proposed and written over the years.
A lot of stories come in “over the transom,” as the expression goes. Sixteen-year-old Amanda Allagree’s heartfelt portrait of a homeless couple, “Homeless in Paradise” (Jan. 24), arrived as a complete surprise, as did Phil Dennis’ poignant April 5, 2012, piece, “Memories of Baghdad, 1952-53,” about life in that ancient city before Iraq descended into tyranny and horror.
Many of our best cover stories are written out of passion for the subject. That’s the case this week with “The coyote hunt.” Author Allan Stellar, who lives in Concow, abhors the sport killing of coyotes, and he was determined to force it out of the shadows by going to the heart of coyote-killing country, Modoc County, and writing about it. For a man who makes his living as a registered nurse, it was a ballsy act.
It also required, for the sake of the story, that he temper his natural aversion to the killing and attempt to see it through the eyes of the hunters. The ranchers of Modoc County weren’t happy to see him, but they are not bad people. Hunting is part of their culture. To his credit Stellar understood this, and his story is better for it—fair to the ranchers, while still speaking passionately for the coyotes.
Who was Kenny Clutch? What we know from press reports is that he was the Chico State dropout and “aspiring rapper” who was driving a Maserati on the Las Vegas strip when someone in a Range Rover SUV shot him and he plowed into a cab, which exploded in flames, killing him, the cabbie and a passenger.
There’s more to the story. Clutch, who grew up in the Bay Area as Kenneth Cherry Jr., was a crappy rapper, as his only YouTube video, Stay Schemin’, demonstrates. So how did he afford the $120,000 car and his $2,900-a-month crib in an upscale condo complex?
According to Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who did serious research, Cherry was in fact a pimp, and one who tended to beat up the women who earned his money.
Apparently the disaster began when he and another pimp, Ammar Harris, got in a tussle following a rap show at the Aria resort-casino. It ended in a fireball and with three people dead.
Kenneth Cherry was a lost soul. As Smith writes, “The bullet Kenny Cherry Jr. courted left the barrel years ago.” I am sorry for his family, and for those of cabbie Michael Bolden, 62, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, who came to Las Vegas for a fashion convention and ended up dead.