By Devlyn Brooks
FCC Content Services Studio
WADENA, Minn. – Pioneer Journal reporter Heather Bullock recently was reminded about a valuable lesson in community journalism: You just never know who might be reading your story.
Bullock, who joined the staff a little over a year ago, writes an occasional movie review for the paper, and in mid-August set her sights on reviewing the summer blockbuster “Into the Storm,” hyped for its big special effects and gripping action scenes.
But Bullock had a personal interest in the movie as well. She was planning to take her niece and nephew, who both experienced the destruction a tornado witnessed on their hometown in June 2010, ripping up homes, schools and businesses. Bullock, who herself wasn’t living in Wadena at the time of the tornado, said she had reservations about bringing the kids, but her sister – the kids’ mom – encouraged her to. She told Bullock she hoped the movie would help the kids work through their fears of storms.
So, off to the movies the three of them went.
Bullock’s review of the movie, headlined “‘Into the storm’ will leave you breathless,” was published in the Pioneer Journal on Aug. 15. It was a positive review that described the movie’s sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat action and explained that “… Director Steven Quale does an admirable job making the viewer care about the characters and showing that strength doesn’t come from not having any trials, but from how you survive those trials.”
Her conclusion: “‘Into the Storm’ is well worth the price of admission,” she wrote in the review.
Interestingly, the day the review was published in the Pioneer Journal, Bullock received an email from Sharon Quale, a woman claiming to be the mother of the film’s director.
The note was short, telling Bullock she liked her review, and it included a link to a story about the director in his hometown in Sun Prairie, Wis.
“I live in Eagle Bend, Minn., and am proud of Steve and his praise of the Midwest as a great place to have been raised,” she wrote. “Attending the New York premier and walking the ‘Red Carpet’ was a surreal experience. I thought you might enjoy reading about Steve. Thanks for your good article about ‘Into the Storm.’”
“When I first read it, I thought it was a joke, that someone was punking me,” Bullock said. “What are the chances that a big, Hollywood movie director would have a family member living nearby? … One who reads our paper and my small-town movie review?”
But Bullock did some checking with the local movie theater owner and found out that Sharon Quale was indeed Steven Quale’s mom, and that she does indeed live in Eagle Bend, about 20 miles south of Wadena, and that indeed she is a subscriber to the Pioneer Journal.
“I did answer her back,” Bullock said. “I thanked her for the kind email, and told her that I enjoy getting feedback from our readers. I told her that I really enjoyed the film and that she must be very proud of her son.”
While an interesting experience, Bullock said she doesn’t think it will change how she approaches writing her reviews.
“I enjoy feedback, but I try not to let others’ opinions affect my integrity in writing,” she said. “If I like a film, I am going to write a positive review. If I don’t like a film, I am going to write about that, without fear that someone is going to be mad at me. Not everyone is going to agree with my opinion.”
Bullock said it’s always uplifting to receive positive feedback for her writing. “Everyone enjoys a little confirmation that their work is good.”
So, just what did her niece and nephew think of the movie, you might ask?
Bullock said she thinks it has helped the kids get over their fears of severe storms some.
“After the film, my nephew said that he really liked the film and that the special effects were ‘cool,’” Bullock said. “I couldn’t have summed it up better than that.”
The Wadena Pioneer Journal is owned by Forum Communications Co., a multimedia information company based in Fargo, N.D., which owns dozens of newspapers, websites, television and radio stations, and commercial printing plants in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.