Meet your IPC: Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin ( center, while in Pamploma, Spain) is a reporter at Idaho Education News, and has been on the Idaho Press Club Board of Directors since 2013. He also serves as the president of the Southwest Chapter of the club. We sat down with him to get his take on journalism and running with the bulls.

Clark Corbin ( center, while in Pamploma, Spain) is a reporter at Idaho Education News, and has been on the Idaho Press Club Board of Directors since 2013. He also serves as the president of the Southwest Chapter of the club. We sat down with him to get his take on journalism and running with the bulls.

Interviewed by Melissa Davlin

Where were you born?

Kansas City, Mo., home of the World Series champion Kansas City Royals!

Where else have you worked?

I started with the The Shawnee Dispatch and Bonner Springs Chieftain weekly newspapers in the Kansas City area, then moved to Idaho Falls and began working for the Post Register in 2006.

Why have you stuck with journalism?

I love it and I’m stubborn. There are other jobs out there, but I don’t know of any others that would have allowed me to cover the Legislature, dig up investment fraud, tell people’s life stories, drive a race car at 160 mph, shoot guns at a police training range, point out candidates’ election season lies and expose an unsafe intersection, which now has a traffic signal thanks to my coverage.

You’ve been with Idaho Ed News since its launch in 2013. How is it different than working at a daily newspaper? Is this a journalism model we’ll see more of in the future?

The daily mechanics of my work — developing story ideas, investigating, interviewing sources and writing on deadline — haven’t changed much. But we have a much different business model, and I could run the whole Ed News operation with just my laptop and cell phone for an extended period of time, if need be.

I like to think I’m more nimble and responsive now. We have many more opportunities with multimedia reporting and interactivity.

We’ve also removed the whole issue of a daily newspaper and the attendant deadline, and printing issues that come with a once-daily delivery model. We also don’t do ads, sell subscriptions or put up paywalls, which are my favorite parts of Ed News.

I do see online journalism and niche publications as the future, but funding and revenue issues remain.

What’s the most memorable story you’ve ever covered?

Partnering with Sven Berg (now of the Idaho Statesman) to expose a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme in Idaho Falls. We worked the story for more than two years, and were able to get way ahead of federal and state finance regulators and break news in the Post Register well before any charges were filed. One investigator working for the state even took out a digital subscription to the PR because we were publishing information and documents and naming names they didn’t have yet. It really felt like our little Watergate, but it was a huge mountain to climb.

You went to Spain in July to participate in the running of the bulls. Would you do it again? Did you learn any lessons you can use in journalism?

I definitely would do it again, but there are a couple of other big adventure type trips I haven’t been on that I want to check out before I go back. Hopefully one involves scuba tanks and big sharks.

I went to Pamplona with my brother and some friends and the three of us who ran made it through just fine. But it was so chaotic and intense! Walking to the encierro before dawn that morning felt like marching toward the gallows. I’ve never looked in people’s eyes and seen sheer terror like I did that morning. There are two thousand runners, six steers and six Spanish fighting bulls all desperately battling for real estate along these narrow cobblestone streets, and something has to give.

Once it begins, people are straight-up screaming throughout the entire duration of the thing. One San Fermin veteran told me the night before to “Get ready for the ugliest (expletive deleted) thing you ever did see.” Plus it’s all extensively documented on live TV. So I knew that if I was gored all of my friends and family back home would see those photos underneath some headline reading “Another dumb American gored in Pamplona.”

That’s a lot to think about.

There may not be direct parallels to journalism, but I really wanted to prepare myself for the run and its potential consequences. So I approached that aspect of it in similar ways to how I would begin researching a big story. I studied the history of the event, read countless interviews with mozos (the bull runners), watched dozens of videos of previous runs, watched people getting gored over and over again and memorized maps of the course and distances. Then I re-read “The Sun Also Rises.”

As soon as I finished the run, the greatest feeling I have ever felt washed over my entire body. Then I threw up from all the adrenaline and walked inside Café Iruña to chug a beer and watch replays of the run.

Any advice for young journalists?

Don’t run with the bulls in Spain if you hope to become an old journalist.

But, seriously? Put the time in, read a lot and ask a ton of questions. One of the best ways to connect with a source is to ask him or her to really walk you through that complicated piece of policy or explain that confusing report.  Ask the source to sit down with you and go through things line-by-line, if need be. You’ll get a better story, a better understanding of the issues and maybe earn a valued source for life.

You should also think about why you’re going into journalism. You’re facing hard work, long hours and you aren’t likely to make any real money or friends in the process.

But there are so many opportunities to make a difference, to point things out that have never been pointed out, to hold the powerful accountable and to highlight the best and worst of what’s going on in your community or beat.

What do you hope to accomplish as a board member of the Idaho Press Club?

My goals are to support access for journalists, to champion open and transparent government, to share best practices and provide local training opportunities. I also really enjoy organizing fun events, such as our happy hour forum series, that can help bring journalists together and establish a sense of community.

On a personal note, I hope to learn a lot from the more experienced journalists serving within the IPC.