“Hello, my name is Katie and I am a reporter for the Columbia Missourian. I was wondering if I could ask you a few quick questions about _____.”
*shakes hand with stranger and begins to ask questions*
I don’t know of many other jobs in which you are supposed to walk up to random strangers and begin to pry information almost without warning. It’s a strange phenomenon to be the bearer of information and the curious voice of the public. There are times when I wonder if someone is just going to shut me down and walk away before I even begin to speak when they see my Missourian badge. There are other times when I have to loiter and eavesdrop for a while before finding the perfect conversation to enter.
Back in the day (and by that I mean last year) I would get really nervous when I had to go up to random people. I would think, “They don’t want to talk to me. I’m just a journalism student that doesn’t know what questions to ask or what story to find.” My hands would get clammy as I’d click click click my pen and my heart would race and I’d stutter, “uh, ahm, hi,” as I racked my brain for the words.
Those nerves have completely dissipated in the last two weeks. Now, I will boldly stroll up to any interesting looking human and engage them in conversation, hoping to find a good story. I will call people on the phone and (respectfully) demand information, then call back to confirm that I got it right.
And over time, I have found that the extrovert in me loves that type of human interaction. People are fascinating.
Earlier this week, my friend and I were at a party and I had engaged a stranger in conversation. The stranger and I had only been talking for about one minute when my friend overhears me asking said stranger, “So, tell me, what is your biggest passion or life goal?”
Needless to say, I don’t do small talk very well.
Maybe that’s why journalism is so wonderful: I can skip the small talk. Granted, that’s not the best idea when I want to make people feel comfortable, but the point is that I have to ask intimate, tough, emotional questions because it’s my job.
I am so lucky that I am able to go out and take people’s perspectives, thoughts, feelings, research, concerns, and synthesize them into a digestible story, and I am so lucky that people are so fascinating.
Journalists should never take for granted their unique opportunity to look at people in a variety of respects. We should never forget to examine how everyone has a story and how that story works with everything else to create this crazy, messed up, confusing world in which we live.