An editor years ago told me about a training exercise he'd done with reporters: He'd throw a dart at a phonebook, and the reporter would have to track down the person whose name the dart hit and write a story about him.
His philosophy was simple. He believed that everyone has a story worth telling. Most people who get into the newspaper do so because they're important, because they committed a crime or were the victim of a crime or have something unusual, extraordinary or just plain weird happen to them.
Everyone has had something interesting happen to them -- some conflict, some hurdle, something special, maybe even amazing.
The notion behind that -- everyone has a story -- is the same idea propelling a Times Free Press project. Multimedia reporter Mary Helen Miller is asking Chattanoogans to film parts of their lives on July 18 and upload them onto YouTube. She will edit them into a short film -- part home movie, part mini-documentary -- that will capture one day of life in Chattanooga.
Miller describes the project as a collaboration between the newspaper and the community. It'll examine with honesty the various aspects of life in a 24-hour period in the city, from the mundane to the oddball, the everyday to the notable. It'll cover the ugly and the pretty parts of life and everything in between. And, hopefully, it'll remind us that as we lead our busy lives every day, bustling from task to task, we're part of a larger community and a bigger picture.
It's an effort to create a story with the involvement of readers and residents, a technique known as crowdsourcing. Times Free Press staff will contribute, too.
For more details, go to timesfreepress.com/oneday or search for the Facebook event One Day in Chattanooga.
To participate, you'll have to film a short part of your day on July 18. Use whatever you have handy, whether it's the camera on an old flip phone, a helmet-cam or a top-notch video camera.
Name your clip "One Day in Chattanooga" and upload it to YouTube, tell us roughly what time of day you recorded the video, and keep it fairly short. A couple of minutes is perfect.
Think about the things you fear, the things you are proud of. Think about anything special or different you're doing that day, any milestones. But don't neglect the everyday rituals and sights and sounds that shape our lives. The film will cover the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at email@example.com.