Think of a Nature Documentary

Some people see reporters as like little flies buzzing around a story just bothering people with questions constantly. Apparently that’s not what we are supposed to do.

Basically what Anne Hull said was to be the camera person in a nature documentary. Just sit and watch. Don’t interfere in the action taking place. Even if the gazelle gets mauled by the lion, you just have sit back and let nature take it’s course, and that’s how we should be as reporters.

Just observe the subject in its natural environment. Don’t disrupt the action for anything. Really get on the level of the subject. I’m assuming that if they can end up forgetting you are even there then that is a great success.

To me, this is the hardest part about features. I mean, I know if I were to do a review of some place, I have to get in and experience it. I need to eat at the restaurant on a Saturday dinner service to see how well the staff are under pressure. I have to attend one of the final dress rehearsals of the play, and it would be better if the staff and I weren’t the only ones in the audience to really simulate a performance. I guess I just didn’t realize exactly how involved this process could be. Actually being on the farm as the workers and being in their conditions. Sleeping as much as they do and experiencing their travel. It is really an intense experience.

So, as a journalist, do I just need to say good bye to sleep?


The Art of the Interview

Of the four different types of information gathering, the interview is the most unreliable.  The first time the interview was used in the newspaper was in 1836 by James Gordon Bennett.  Since then, newspapers have changed forever.

Now, before you interview someone, you must do your research.  Thankfully, with the Internet this has become much easier.  You must pay attention to details, such as the setting of the interview and the person being interviewed.  Your goal is to have accelerated intimacy.  To build a quick and deep relationship with your subject.

Phase one of the interview is the introduction.  You get to know each other.  Next, you adjust.  You ask yourself, “Am I getting what I need?”  Then, you have a moment of connection.  You must connect in order to get an accelerated relationship with them.

Now you’re settling in.  you’re subject is enjoying the interview and maybe he or she sets their briefcase down.  Before you know it, you have a revelation.  The subject opens up and says things they never though they would.  They can’t believe what they’re telling you- but it just keeps coming out.  You want to keep encouraging more revelations so you use comments such as, “I didn’t know that,” or, “Tell me more about that.”  Those responses keep encouraging your subject to throw up more information (sorry for the graphicness).

Lastly, a wrap up.  You put your notebook away and continue to talk to your subject.  This puts them even more at ease and makes them believe you are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.

Practice with a friend or colleague and perfect your skills.  Good luck with your interviews!


Time To Ask the Hard Questions

Is this really what I want to do? Like, am I even really capable of being in the profession. So far I have to be a wordsmith, a salesperson, and now possibly a psychologist? I really don’t think I’m going to end up getting paid enough for this.

All joking aside, it is becoming obvious to me that being a journalist is something that requires a wide set of skills, and the new skill I know have to pick up is being a successful interrogator. I need to know how to get information out of people using only my words. That’s actually a lot harder than it sounds.

In my limited experience so far, I can already tell that if people don’t want to say something to you, they aren’t going to. Considering most of us probably aren’t police officers, we don’t exactly have the power to make them say anything either. When it comes down to it, interviewing is hard.

Not only are you trying to get information out of someone’s words, but you also have to pay attention to everything else. A communications professor once told me that most of what you say does not even come from the words you are actually saying. Most of what you communicate actually comes out through your body language, so that’s very important to pay attention to. However, that’s rather difficult to do while making sure to take down notes. And then you also have to pay attention to how they say things, like what inflections go where and how long that pause was. Again, you have to do all of this while writing down what they are saying to you and deciding if the next question you had planned to ask them is what you still want to ask or if you should take the interview in a different route. Oh my brain hurts just thinking about all of this.

Interviewing really is a skill that you have to craft, like anything else. To use a recorder or not? How detailed to make the notes. What questions are you going to ask, and how are you going to ask them? Everyone does it differently, so there is no right way. It really is something that has to be practiced. Too bad I’m not really a fan of practicing. The things I do to hopefully have a job one day.