Where There’s Smoke, There’s Probably A Story

Smoke rises over eastern Texarkana

Smoke rises over eastern Texarkana toward Mandeville early one morning. (Photo © 2012 Jathan Fink)

Smoke billowed into the sky and nearly blocked out the sun as I headed to work two weeks ago. I wondered what could be burning, if anyone was hurt, or what kind of tragedy the fire rose out of. I had been out shooting photos for another story already that morning and was running behind schedule, plus I had a billion things to do that day and chasing down a fire wasn’t on the agenda. But the journalist within said “Where there’s smoke, there’s probably a story.” 

“Oh what the heck,” I finally said to myself, and turned off the main road in the direction of the fire. Now you have to remember, I just moved to Texas and wasn’t sure where the roads led, or even if they’d take me to the source of the smoke. I flew over one gravel road after another, but I never did find a path that would take me where I wanted to go. Finally, I returned the way I came and thought perhaps, if I was lucky, the interstate would happen to pass by the fire or at least drop me by a road that would take me there.

As I left town, the smoke thickened, nearly choking me like a black fist wrapping around my throat. I knew I had to be close. Then, finally, I saw it. Scorched farmland for as far as I could see, with flames still lapping at the dried wheat crops from the year before. The landowners were clearing the field for fresh planting. Disappointed, I realized I’d been hoping for something breaking, some structure going up in flames and I felt a pang of guilt. I pulled over, shot some video and returned to work to write a brief story about it in case other local residents had also wondered where the fire came from.

Oddly enough, that is just what happened. After I published the piece, it became one of the most successful stories of the week and earned good traffic on our company’s website. So the lesson learned from this is always trust your instincts. The story may not be earth shattering, but if enough people wonder the same thing you do, they’ll look for a story about it to find out what is happening in their community. So the next time there’s smoke, follow it because no matter how small it may seem, there’s probably a story there.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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