For this exercise, I’ll be using Chad Smith’s column that was published Monday in the Gainesville Sun on a budget impasse between the Alachua County Commission and the Sheriff’s office.
1. Make a list.
a. Why is there a budget appeal?
b. Why is spending within the budget so difficult?
c. Why are new employees needed?
d. Is doing away with the school crossing guard program a good threat to the budget appeal?
e. Why can’t the Sheriff’s office stay within the budget if county commissioner Mike Byerly said every other office can?
2. Think about change.
a. What is going to happen if there is no more school crossing guard program?
b. What are Alachua County parents going to do if this program is terminated?
3. Think about the unusual.
a. Definitely this school crossing program as a threat. The outcry parents have from this will make a great story.
4. Ask yourself what interests you.
a. This piece can lead to other pieces, especially on Sheriff Sadie Darnell’s side onto the need for more employees. Also, what working within this budget means compensation-wise for everyone else.
5. Think about the next steps.
a. Maybe a story on the other branches that made it within the budget to see the difficulty but possibility of getting within the budget.
6. Think about the people.
a. A story on the potential seven deputies leaving the school resource programs and the effect that can have on the schools they were in.
7. Apply the five W’s.
a. Who is going to cave in on this appeal?
b. What is it going to take for both sides to agree?
c. When is it all going to happen?
d. Where are the schools that have officers in them, are they problem areas in the community?
e. Why would the school crossing program be determinate over any other programs?
8. Ask how.
a. This is only going to happen if both sides can agree on the same terms, obviously. How it happens remains to be seen.
9. Ask others.
a. The school crossing program seems to be an interesting angle that others would be interested in.
a. How these other branches got within the budget, and how Pasco County Sheriff Bob White dropped his appeal.