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Reporter's attitude: Something you either have or don't?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by smsu_scribe, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. smsu_scribe

    smsu_scribe Guest

    Just something I've wondered since I started getting involved on the campus rag. Sports journalism, to me, was something intimidating at first - just sort of the timidity toward approaching people and asking if I can interview them. One year later (sophomore in college now), I still find that I get very nervous about this same thing. Once I get into the interview, I'm completely fine. It's weird, I know. But I struggle sometimes with just procrastination toward starting work on a story, as I'm just sort of dreading approaching the people I need to talk to, if you know what I mean.

    Is this something that anyone here can at all relate to? And does that just go away with experience, or is that reporting confidence something you either have or don't?

    I should add that I feel like my interviewing skills are fine. I have a sense of what makes a good quote, of trying to pry anecdotes, etc.

    I love putting stories together, and I'm quite confident in my writing skills at this stage. I just don't want to keep at a craft that seems to make me somewhat timid at times...Besides the obvious reasons not to go into this business in the first place ;)
  2. Fredrick

    Fredrick Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't worry about it yet. I think it will go away in time. It's like anything else that is new. It takes a while to develop your confidence in talking to strangers.
    As a suggestion, I wouldn't write out all your questions but I'd scribble down a couple ideas or even a couple questions so you'll have a crutch if you are too nervous and the interview is starting poorly.
    I assume not all your stories are approaching strangers on the street. Some you are actually setting up through phone calls or emails or talking to players before practice or after games. You'll get used to it I bet.
    A lot of people don't like to approach strangers on the street for interviews. Many of those people can be rude to reporters anyway, so welcome to the club if those type of interview situations bother you.

    Like you said, there are many many reasons for you to reconsider this business, mainly the fact that those who are lucky enough to have jobs are not ever seeing increases in pay anymore once they get the jobs. Only paycuts or freezes. But your timidity I think is natural considering your newness to the profession.
  3. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    Went through the same thing. Don't sweat it.

    For post-game stuff, I'd jot down ideas of questions. For feature interviews, I'd compile a list beforehand, but not follow it strictly unless there arose lulls in the conversation. That is what interviews should be, after all: conversations.

    I still do this. Before any interview, I spend five to ten minutes typing out a list of questions. I print it out in really small font, cut the piece of paper to fit in the back of my notepad, and glance at it from time to time throughout the interview.

    If nothing else, it focuses you before the interview. The key to overcoming fear is preparation. At first, your preparation is your list. The more experience you get, the more prepared you naturally are.

    There have been plenty of interviews I've done when my list was hardly touched on. There have been others when I was very glad to have it.

    Also, don't be afraid of looking or sounding dumb. The sooner you get over that, the better off you'll be. Odds are you don't look or sound half as dumb as you'll think you do. Ask the small questions. That was my biggest problem starting out -- I was scared to ask a question that would make me sound dumb, but then, the dumber we are, the more we need to know.

    I'm rambling. PM me if you want to ask more questions. I'd be glad to help out.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Procrastinating is extremely normal.

    Being nervous is no big deal as long as you can get the job done.
  5. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    Just a matter of experience and getting comfortable with your role in interviews. Give it some time. If it continues to be something forced over the next few years, then this might not be your field, but too early to know now.

    And yes, we all procrastinate...lol
  6. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I have this tendency to get really nervous before interviewing big names (like my state's sitting governor at the time or Dick Gregory), but once I'm in the interview itself, I block all that out and concentrate on the job at hand.

    Some people just channel their nerves better than others.
  7. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    I credit my former job with bringing me out of my shell. I was painfully shy when I was a kid and I had very little confidence when I started working at my hometown newspaper, but I had no choice other than to approach people and ask questions in order to do my job.

    It got easier as I went along. Eventually, you develop the attitude that, "they're just people, and this is just a conversation we're going to have. But it's a conversation I need to have so I can do my job." Once you have that ingrained in you, you'll be fine.

    I was lucky in that I had a wonderful mentor who both hired me and taught me the job. I remember being afraid to ask certain things in interviews, believing they'd be dismissed as stupid questions, or perhaps the person I was talking with would call me a know-nothing. She taught me, first of all, that there were no stupid questions. She also gave me a huge boost by saying, "look, you know enough about the hockey game/whatever that you're watching. Don't let the coach tell you something that you know is not what you saw."

    Her confidence in me allowed and encouraged me to be confident in myself. I took her words to heart and over time I became, I think, a good reporter who knows how to ask good questions.

    I sent her a card when I got my first big piece in a major magazine, and she's getting a very big "thank you" in my book when it's published next summer. :)
  8. Babs

    Babs Member

    I only get nervous for phone interviews, not for face-to-face. It's much easier to build quick rapport face to face. The phone is awkward and I don't enjoy it.
  9. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    That's what Tiger said. [/crossthreading] ;D
  10. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    I had this same problem, too. I'm not a natural people person. I'm not a naturally good bullshitter.

    But at some point, it just hit me: I have no other option than to do this. It's my job. I'm just asking another person some questions. It's just another dude with his own problems, just like me. I don't have to like it, and it's OK to feel nervous.

    Once I realized that, I didn't really get nervous anymore. And I found that doing this job for a few years has made me much more comfortable with public speaking. In some ways, I kind of like it, actually, which, at 20 years old, would have seemed impossible to me.
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    There are all kinds. Some reporters are naturally good BSers and really charm their interview subjects.

    Lots of reporters are naturally kind of shy. They like the writing part but not so much the interviewing and have to work through it.

    Others are just real SOBs who seem to get off on asking tough questions. These are probably the best kind, actually.
  12. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Having very little self-awareness does seem to help some folks quite a bit. Some of the best in the business are like that. No need to name names, though.
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