But most of the time, it's only tangential, at best, to the story I'm working on, or proves to be a blind alley of some sort. I don't want to discard all this stuff, nor do I want to print it all out and stick it in a file, or put it on a hard drive somewhere where I'll forget about it. Plus, there's the nagging suspicion that somewhere down the line, I really will need this stuff for a story.
The solution is to put it all in some easily-accessible place, with all the supporting documents and a summary of the research. That describes Wikipedia well, and that's what I did yesterday with Xenophon P. Huddy.
I've run into Xenophon Huddy's name many times over the years, researching for my weekly legislation story. Starting in 1906, he wrote a legislative affairs column himself, for Horseless Age. He was also the author of The Law of Automobiles, the first and seminal text on the subject, which went to at least eight editions in his lifetime. Eventually, it occurred to me to wonder who he was, thinking maybe that was a story in itself.
But for someone with such a high profile--in addition to his often-cited book and other legal writings, he lectured at New York-area automobile clubs--I couldn't find even a thumbnail biographical sketch. Instead, I had to piece together scattered dates and side notes, to come up with a still-incomplete picture of a man who was genuinely formative in today's American automobile law.
The result, such as it is, I put on Wikipedia. I'm hoping somewhere out there the descendant of Huddy, or some scholar laboring in obscurity, will fill in the blanks.
So if you're interested, check out my little biography of Xenophon P. Huddy.