The time I was scooped by The Washington Post

So here’s a fun fact: one of the most frustrating things that’s ever happened to me as a journalist is also one of the most edifying. Here’s what happened.

At the time, I was the editorial assistant at Sojourners magazine in Washington, D.C., which meant that I spent my days fact-checking every line of the magazine and making sure our writers got paid. However, because I needed a writing fix, my side-hustle was freelancing for a variety of religion publications. One night — partially because I was looking for a story to report on, and partially because I just wanted to know more — I attended a presentation about nuclear weapons at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House.

That’s when I met Holy Child Jesus Sr. Megan Rice.

At this point, Rice had been indicted with one misdemeanor and two felony charges for her July 2012 protest at a nuclear reservation in Tennessee, but she had not yet been convicted of anything. As she was speaking, her story set off all kinds of reporter alarms in my brain, so I started Googling her on my phone. I was surprised at how little press coverage the protest had gotten, but I also realized this meant I could write this story.

I started doing research and interviews and pitching the story to Catholic publications. Nobody was interested in publishing the piece. This went on for months. Every time Rice spoke in D.C., I was there, and I kept pitching the story because I knew it was good. As far as I knew, I was the only reporter following her around, but then one night, there was another. Dan Zak from the Washington Post was sitting in a corner when I arrived at the Dorothy Day House for another Rice presentation.

I kept pitching my story, and I kept getting either rejected or ignored. Then, several weeks after I’d seen him at the Dorothy Day House, Zak published a massive feature about Sr. Megan Rice, and the media lost its collective mind. Zak's story was all over NPR and PBS, and the article was quickly turned into an e-book. Some of my friends texted and emailed me, wondering if this was the same story I'd been laboring over for so long. I would sigh, "Yes, it was."

I say this experience was both frustrating and edifying because, on the one hand, it meant that all those months of side-hustling had been for naught. Which was the worst. But it also meant that my news instinct had been dead-on, and I was very proud of that.

So it feels kind of full circle-y to me that this week at Global Sisters Report, we've got a cover story about Sr. Megan Rice. I didn't write the story, but it does make me think about all the things that have changed since that time I was scooped by the Washington Post. Who would have thought several years later, my full-time job would be writing about women religious?

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the article our Megan Rice article. It's not quite long enough to be an e-book (we'll leave that to Dan Zak for now), but it's definitely an interesting read. You should check it out if you haven't already!

 [Dawn Araujo-Hawkins is Global Sisters Report staff writer, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @dawn_cherie]

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