Athens Review, Athens, Texas

April 16, 2013

Feature stories allow us to really get to know people

Joe Elerson
The Athens Review

Athens — If there is one form of journalism which gives me the greatest pleasure it is writing feature stories.

I used to hate it when I was in college until I was at my very first job in Sulphur Springs as a sports writer.

I had the honor and privilege of following two brothers, Josh and Drew Biggerstaff, during their high school careers.

Josh was a multi-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball at a small school in Como Pickton. Drew also was a multi-sport athlete, but at Sulphur Springs High School.

Josh and Drew were solid athletes and students as I saw both of them grow as athletes since they were a part of my coverage beat for the paper.

I had the honor of doing a feature story about Josh prior to his graduation and became pretty close with him throughout his career.

Tragically one day in 2005, Josh committed suicide and I had to attend his funeral. That was honestly one of the toughest days I have ever experienced as a journalist.

That season, I had met Drew for the first time while covering him as a basketball player for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats’ program.

After writing the first feature on Josh, I wasn’t sure if I would get the chance to do a feature story on Drew.

During the 2007 season, which was Drew’s senior year, the opportunity came for me to do the feature story on Drew. I jumped at the chance to do it as a memorial for his brother.

I remember a line which stuck out to me during that interview and it shows just how much he loved Josh.

“My brother Josh is a role model to me. I looked up to him in every aspect from on the court, off the court, on the field, off the field — wherever we were at,” Biggerstaff said. “When we were playing one-on-one, I had to beat him and now that he is not here to beat now, I just impress him. I want everyone to know that that is who I live for besides my parents and I want to go on and accomplish the things he would have done.”

After seeing him get choked up during the interview, I knew writing features was something I had to do every chance I got because I take honor in telling the stories of people with special memories of loved ones or special events that have shaped them into the people they are today.

I always think about how Josh is doing now and what Drew has thought about the life his brother is living here on Earth.

Knowing what Josh meant to the small town he played for and also having the honor of representing my newspaper at the viewing the day before his funeral was a difficult night for me.

I hope the way I write my feature stories is something readers enjoy, but most importantly for the people I am writing about every week.

I want as many people to be able to have their moment in the spotlight even if they feel like they haven’t done anything to deserve it because everyone has a story to tell.

I have met a lot of interesting people in my 13 years as a journalist and have learned new things about every person I have interviewed.

I hope for the remainder of the feature stories I write, the readers will learn something about a person they may have never known before.

As for myself, I hope I get many more opportunities to talk with people about what makes their lives so special so readers can have the honor of experiencing what I get to do every day as a journalist.

And you never know, one day I may be writing a feature story about you.

Joe Elerson is a staff writer for the Athens Daily Review. He can be reached at jelerson@athensreview.com.