Different Strokes for Different Folks

Published February 1, 2013 by jrm17

As the future Pulitzer Prize winner (Um, yeah right, I wish), I’ve done my fair share of interviews.  I did a very interesting and completely fun one yesterday, though.  It made me realize that each person handles how they approach being interviewed differently.  Then I started thinking about the interviews I’ve done that have stuck out in my head and how they’ve been different and specific to that person.  So….here you go with examples.My first big article I wrote for Frederick Magazine about The Anvil in Harpers Ferry.  I went in knowing a lot (or so I thought) about the restaurant from a customer’s point of view because I happened to have pitched the story because it is one of my favorite places to eat.  Boy was I wrong.  I did not know near as much as I thought I did and honestly, there was really no way for me to do any background research on the place.   The website and Facebook pages don’t really have much information other than the hours, the menu, and some pictures and statuses about specials.  I had enough that I formed some good questions, though, and I was excited (read: scared) for the interview.

Nevertheless, it was one of the best interviews I have ever had.  Okay, actually, it was with three people–the owners, Ann and Danny, and Chef Jeff–and they were all fabulous.  They had an amazing chemistry that played off each other and just made everything very comfortable and warm.  I walked out of the restaurant wanting nothing but to write an amazing article about them because they were so incredibly nice.  Out of all the interviews I’ve done, this was probably my favorite.  I got awesome quotes because they were such cool people and I learned a lot about the restaurant and the history of the building and name (Turns out it comes from the play The Anvil written by the owners’ friend about the John Brown trial, a very important piece of our history, and it’s all written from accurate accounts.).   The article turned out great and everyone was happy with the final piece.

While they were great, I’ve had some interesting yet not-so-great interviews.  At my first internship, I had the privilege of interviewing the draftees by the Orioles from the 2011 MLB Draft.  Really, cool, right?  Yeah, but it turns out that those boys aren’t exactly as good at interviews as you would think.  That’s not completely fair because some of the guys were good interviewees and all of them were nice but they weren’t the most eloquent group of boys.  I had a set of questions that I was supposed to ask each one based on if they were a pitcher or a position player.  The worst part was that I was supposed to call each one ASAP…as in as soon as their name came across the big board.  I thought this was a terrible idea because those boys didn’t want to talk to me the second they find out they are being called to the majors.  They want to celebrate with their friends and families (Or go to practice for the College World Series as one of them needed to).  But, I did my job and got in touch with each one I was assigned.  I can’t blame any of them for not being articulate in this case.  They just got huge news and they were being called for an interview by some girl from some website they’d never heard of.  In retrospect, the best guy I talked to was one from Mississippi, I think, who was headed to the CWS with his team.  I was super nice and kept calling me ma’am (I guess he didn’t realize that I was actually younger than him).  The only other cool one was with a guy who actually pitched in one of the early season games last year for maybe an inning…probably less.  Lesson here: not talkative people make for a difficult article to write.

I’ve learned that again in my freelancing.  A recent article I had to write meant I needed to talk to a lady from a local community action group.  God bless her, she really wanted to give me all the information I needed but it just didn’t work.  We actually set up two interviews so that I could get enough to meet my word count but I still couldn’t make 600.  I did everything I could but had to end up calling a few groups that the original worked with and one that gave a grant to put on the event I was covering to get enough.  In the end, the article turned out decent and I began my career as a freelancer but it was a really stressful few days trying to get it done.

The final interview that will forever be in my head is the one I did yesterday.  I got to interview an up and coming hip hop star.  As soon as I got the assignment, I was thinking that this was what I got into journalism to do and I was really excited.  My mom was a little confused why I was assigned this when the most I know about hip hop is Eminem and Tupac and why it couldn’t be a local country band.  I didn’t care; this was what I’ve wanted to do.  I called him up and he just launched into his story and mission.  He gave me so much information and was such a good interview that much like when I left The Anvil, I went home, sat at my computer, and leaped into it, wanting it to be epic.  We may have come from different musical genres but he was a good Southern boy, hailing from the Deep South.  He reminded me of a good friend of mine with his Southern boy manners and significant respect for his grandmother and mother who he deems as his inspirations.  The article won’t go out for a few more weeks but it’s done.  I may have to cut some stuff because he was eloquent enough to give me much more than I can fit into 700 words but I think it will do him proper justice…I hope so.

I know that I haven’t done as many interviews as some people my age and that I have a long way to go before I’m Pulitzer Prize worthy but I think I have one special thing about me.  I like making a connection and bond with the people I interview and each one stays with me.  I love learning about people and their causes and their stories and I make a point to remember each one for the special people they are.  I think that’s why I love journalism.  I get to collect stories and see just how amazing and different and similar we all really are.

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