Behind the Scenes: A Note From the Newsroom

On the making of our feature story concerning the deadly business of building oil and gas pipelines.
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Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main water protector campsite located just to the North of Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Reservation on Highway 1806, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 27th, 2016.

Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main water protector campsite located just to the North of Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Reservation on Highway 1806, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 27th, 2016.

Antonia and I spoke hastily on the phone. The sense of hurry was understandable, given the police-grade rubber bullets that were apparently whizzing by her head. Besides, it was probably our third or fourth conversation that day—it's hard to say, exactly; this happened about two years ago. She knew what sort of story I, her Web editor, was looking for, just as I knew what sort of story she was capable of delivering (an extremely high-caliber one). No time for pleasantries when there's a story unfolding right before the reporter's eyes.

I was first put in touch with Antonia Juhasz by Pacific Standard's executive editor, Jennifer Sahn. It was late October of 2016. Antonia and Jennifer were hard at work on an investigation into the death of Nicholas Janesich, who passed away that year after suffering a work-related injury during the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. During the course of her reporting for that story, Antonia found herself in the thick of the pipeline protests. Antonia and Jennifer both wondered: Might there be an opportunity for a quick dispatch? And so I found myself chatting over the phone with a woman who made her living in part by dodging bullets.

A version of this story originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now to support independent journalism in the public interest.

A version of this story originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now to support journalism in the public interest.

Our magazine publishes eight issues per year. That's a heavy workload, given our small staff. But it also leaves plenty of opportunity for Internet-exclusive scoops and stories. In order to keep pace with the news cycle, timeliness—speed, really—is a central priority for me as a Web editor (and for my colleague, Rebecca Worby). We publish roughly 12 stories per day to PSmag.com, the majority of which are tied to the breaking news cycle.

But alongside the mandate for haste comes our desire to craft meaningful, impactful stories. In order to accomplish both of these goals, we need to be flexible, assigning in all different formats and styles. In Antonia's case, that meant on-the-ground reporting, where her goal was simply to illuminate; other times, the story might demand wonky analysis, where the reporting requires a quick call to a researcher.

And sometimes, as was the case with the two dispatches Antonia wrote from the protests in North Dakota, Web reporting can function in support of a larger print piece. Her story about Janesich's death was taking shape at the same time as those frequent, frazzled exchanges between her and me.

In that sense, there really is no divide between the print and Web sides of Pacific Standard. We all lurch toward the same goal: to tell important stories—ones that can change the world.

A version of this story originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now to support independent journalism in the public interest.

Antonia and I spoke hastily on the phone. The sense of hurry was understandable, given the police-grade rubber bullets that were apparently whizzing by her head. Besides, it was probably our third or fourth conversation that day—it's hard to say, exactly; this happened about two years ago. She knew what sort of story I, her Web editor, was looking for, just as I knew what sort of story she was capable of delivering (an extremely high-caliber one). No time for pleasantries when there's a story unfolding right before the reporter's eyes.

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