My Grandma lives in the same town as John Mellencamp’s parents, and yet he never shows up around family reunions. So, JCM: It’s this weekend. Bring a side dish.
Like my 6-year-old cousin Ruby said this morning, “These are my best days ever!” Then she punched me in the boob and ran away.
Two of my oldest friends are getting married this weekend, to each other. It’s kind of weird: We’re so little still. But it’s also wonderful: They’re beautiful people and beautiful together. Even better: They know it; they recognize it, and we’re celebrating that.
Seven years ago, Ashley and I filled our cross county practices with talk of Greg — how much she liked him and what he said and what she said and whether they would ever get the gumption to get together. When you can talk about someone for the whole 7-mile training run, that’s when you know it’s meant to be.
Chan Marshall’s voice sounds like the temperature this week.
Journalism makes me nervous. I sleep with a hollow, nauseated feeling the night before an interview considering the next day’s production.
In community journalism, the reporter is expected to do it all, and an interview can be like the deep end of a swimming pool. You pay attention to your subject while furiously scribbling notes, listening enough to quote accurately and to truly understand the subject in order to formulate appropriate follow-up questions, phrased in such a way to make the source most comfortable and most voluble. All the while, you must silently filter answers, sorting the integral from the merely interesting. Too much information makes a story impossible to write and impossible to understand, so you develop a focus as you go and — the biggest challenge — try to stick with it.
And then you remember you’re your own photographer. So the reporter must also have an eye for scenes (timing, people, angles, information through objects), and be reasonably good at juggling equipment — or wear pants with very large pockets. You’ll take 45 pictures and 44 of them will be worthless and usually the first one is your best. Kids and farm animals are tough subjects because they don’t stop moving. Adults are tough subjects because they’re too self-conscious. And, my God, you’d better make sure you spell their names correctly in the cutline.
In the end, you simply equip yourself as best you can for the dive with journalistic scuba gear: a camera full of batteries and a pen that won’t fail (never, ever underestimate the power of a working pen). You take the plunge and flop around in the water, salmon-like, reaching for the coins at the bottom of the pool that are the perfect quote and coherence and some essence of what your interviewee is saying or feeling.
But what I always forget and what always reassures me right before the interview — before things get crazy and there’s no time for worrying or reassuring — is that most people just want to be heard. When you spotlight them, people are flattered and grateful to finally be given the excuse to talk about themselves, what they love or what makes them anxious or why City Hall can suck it.
So there’s all that other stuff to do, and, yes, it’s overwhelming (because there’s also stuff about deadlines and accuracy and actually writing well). But first a reporter listens, and if you listen just right, the rest kind of falls into place. It also helps to eat a good breakfast beforehand.