When it comes to feature stories, a reporter usually should get out of the office and burn some shoe leather.
Unfortunately, I failed in that goal for a recent story, but I think I’ve got a pretty good excuse.
My story was on the Blue Lake Resort, a nudist camp near Erie. One of my editors, Kathleen Schultz, asked me to do a feature on it.
Fortunately, she didn’t require that I actually visit the camp. That’s because Blue Lake has a very strict rule – if you visit, the clothes come off.
I couldn’t bring myself to do that, so I did my interview by phone. Some reporters, however, have no such reservations.
In 1983, then-Quad-City Times reporter Jim Renkes visited the park for a feature. He admitted he was nervous.
“As I walked out into the fresh air of Blue Lake Nudist Camp, a warm breeze blew gently against my face ... and my chest and legs and feet and everything else,” wrote Renkes, who has relatives in Morrison. “I had kept my St. Louis Cardinals cap pulled tightly over my head, and as I stood in front of my hosts, I knew that my ears now matched the red of my cap.”
He reported that he rested his notebook on his lap as he interviewed the nudists, then decided to put it on the arm of the chair.
“I didn’t want to seem like I was hiding anything,” he wrote.
“Sitting there in my pudgy 31-year-old birthday suit, I slowly became more relaxed,” he said.
He noted that not every nudist has a “beautiful body.” In fact, most of them would have to be considered “chunky” at the very least.
It’s not a place for voyeurism, which is frowned upon.
“Older men who walked by didn’t seem to pay any attention to the firm pretty young woman sunbathing on the deck attached to the clubhouse,” Renkes wrote.
One woman he interviewed was a teacher in a small, conservative town. She promised to tell people only when she retires, she told Renkes.
“Then,” she said. “I”m going to watch their mouths drop open.”
A photographer went along with Renkes. A photo of a man at the Bare Buns Bar is taken from behind. The newspaper blacked out his posterior.
I feel no regret for my approach to the story, but I respect Renkes’ efforts in going the extra mile. So hats off – and everything else – to Renkes for getting to the (bare) bottom of a good story.