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Wednesday
Aug042010

Tables turned

When I was a reporter, I never really understood why people got worked up and frightened about interviews with me. 

I'm a wuss, for god's sake -- scared of mice, tall bridges and public speaking. I try not to judge, I'm a good listener and insatiably curious about other people's stories, so what on earth was there to be worried about talking to me? 

Today, I sat on the other side of the table - the interviewee not the interviewer - and I gotta tell you: for a few minutes there, I felt the fear. I knew I wasn't the focus of the reporter's story, just the facilitator to help her find other contacts. But, still, I felt butterflies in my belly and tingles in my hands in the minutes before I met her. 

I'm still not exactly sure why. Maybe I wondered if she'd be brusque or aggressive? Did I think she'd be mean? Who knows? It was as irrational as my freak outs over tiny, harmless, otherwise adorable mice.

But then she opened the door to the coffee shop and I saw her middle-school-aged son tagging along and in an instant, the butterflies disappeared. 

I've always thought reporters are grossly misperceived as sensationalist hacks, fact manipulators and worse. I mean, that's the stereotype, right? So, OK, I worked with one or two pricks who fit the mold but the common rap is a bum one. Most of my friends in the newsroom were impassioned storytellers who loved words and interesting characters. They considered it an honor to be entrusted with personal stories and a joy to share them.

(Reporters are also maligned as idealists, so, yeah, maybe I'm being one right now.)

The point is: it's hard to be menaced by someone who brings her kid to work. 

And, it might do us all a lot of good to remember that the grumpy cashier, the meter maid, the Hollywood star, the guy on the utility pole trying to get the power back on, they're all like you and me - folks with funky families and funny stories just trying to get along the best we can.

Reader Comments (3)

I love this post. This is what I often think about when interviewing a sheriff or county commissioner. Why are they scared of 5"2 women who looks like a kid? A journalism professor of mine once said, "They go to the bathroom just like you and." It is the great equalizer--the bathroom. I loved this post!

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline Hough

Dana - I loved this post and I'm so sorry the thought of meeting me caused you such anxiety! But I can totally relate. Just before I met with you, a reporter from Real Simple wanted to interview ME about a story I wrote on being such an idiot that I nearly threw $1,000 away on an apartment scam, and THAT wasn't easy. I had the same butterflies. (Plus now a national audience would know what an idiot I was ...)

Good to remember that, at heart, we are all human. And that, despite the best predictions of a crotchedy old journalism professor that I was too nice to be a good reporter, you can tell other people's stories, be honored to do so, honor them, honor the truth and be true to yourself.

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrigid Schulte

Precisely. Amen. Sing it sister.

Oh, and Real Simple?! Very nice. Very, very nice.

August 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterDana Damico

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