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A little too close to the action - Greg Gelpi

Put me in the trenches and drop me into the middle of the action.

I've always craved to be a war correspondent to be out in the fray, surrounded by real life, as opposed to speaking with some official speaking from behind a desk thousands of miles away.

The intense images of the blood-soaked battlefield aren't a glamorous site to be glorified, but the stories should and must be told. I don't have the mental or physical fortitude to be part of the action, but the reporter in me desires the stories of those who do.

Out on a recent assignment about a fluffy cutesy story, I began to question that dream. Darting around a corner, a dog with an appetite for skinny reporters decided to feast on my leg.

If I can't handle a light little feature story, then how could I deal with the horror and graphic imagery of a war zone?

As a former sports editor, I always planted myself on the sidelines of the football games, rather than perching myself in the press box.

The chatter of the sidelines, the perspective of looking eye-to-eye with the players and coaches and the feel of the liveliness and fervor of the atmosphere provided a more accurate depiction of the action.

I quickly learned, though, that the sidelines, like all lines, get crossed frequently. A 200-pound fullback barreling toward the sideline doesn't stop magically after crossing the line. He continues to come. He continues to come hard and strong, so you better have good reflexes and sidestep briskly, lest you become part of the action, rather a mere spectator to the action.

Way back when, I was issued the challenge by a well-known journalist to "make me see."

Don't report a list of facts and figures, but actually paint a picture and tell a story. Transport the reader to the location of the story complete with the dingy smell of the streets and whirling back and forth of the traffic.

If Joe tells Suzie, and Suzie tells John, who tells me, then the story is twisted and distorted through the varying eyes and backgrounds, albeit unintentionally.

The story isn't usually on the other end of a phone line, but outside in the blazing sun or up to your waist in snow.

If I can't be there, then I go to the next best thing.

I take a bottom-up perspective to reporting, instead of the top-down perspective. That means that I'd rather talk to the folks down in the trenches experiencing the news, instead of those a few pay scales above that hear about the news through a series of channels.

The combination of wanting to be in the trenches, speak to those in the trenches and to make the reader see compel me to the forefront of the action, while possibly the forefront of danger.

If ever given the opportunity to cover stories in hostile territory, I just hope there are no dogs on the loose and looking for a bite to eat.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.