I discovered not too long ago that I’m a bit of an introvert. I thought for the longest time that I was super shy and didn’t like people, or gatherings, or groups, but it turns out there’s another term for it. It’s a bit more complicated than that, sure, but I’m able to identify with it.
Now, as a journalism major, I’m aiming to be a journalist. (Well, that’s really more of a backup plan. Ideally, I’d like to live off my novels.) And I’m currently on track to being a full-time journalist. I freelance for a nearby newspaper, which is providing me with invaluable experience to help me get a full-time job once I finish this last year of college. Yay, me!
Wait. As a journalist I have to… talk! To people! Damn it! I have to actually seek out people and ask them questions and frantically scribble down what they say and transcribe my notes before I can’t read them anymore and put it all together in an article while hoping I didn’t misquote anyone.
Wait! How do I spell this person’s name? Maybe they’re on Facebook. What if I have to CALL THEM to ask how to spell their name?
Nothing makes a person want to talk to a journalist like an awkward encounter. Forget making them feel comfortable, do everything in your power to make them want to run away screaming for someone who knows how to act in social situations!
All right, I suppose it’s not that bad. But, I am discovering that I need to find some sort of way to stave off some of these introvert feelings when covering events for the paper. I sort of have it figured out. I usually show up at an event and sort of linger on the outskirts. I ignore the sketchy looks I may get from some people. After all, being as tall as I am, I tend to stand out. Also, it doesn’t help that I’m lurking around a group of people writing down notes.
After a short time I usually approach someone important at the event–usually a person who is secluded, or isn’t surrounded by a large group of people–and tell them my name, and that I’m with the paper. Then, usually, it goes one of two ways:
1) Everything is normal, and the people go on with the event. (This happens 99% of the time)
2) People get nervous that the press is at their event, and they point me out to everyone in the room, telling them to make sure they come talk to me so I can interview them and get quotes because THE PRESS IS HERE! IT’S TIME TO BE IN THE NEWSPAPER! LET’S TRY REALLY HARD TO COME UP WITH A GOOD QUOTE!
Again, I exaggerate some. But, still, I can usually tell when someone who knows I’m a reporter is trying to come up with an especially good quote. Especially when they say, “Hold on, I’m trying to think of something good.”
Okay, well, hurry it up, because while you’re thinking, being in this group of people is only forcing me to exude more awkward into the room.
After I introduce myself, I go back to lingering on the outskirts, observing what’s happening. Are there important people there? Are there activities? Business owners? Is money involved? Grants, donations, prizes? Are other reporters from other newspapers there? What are people saying? What is the overall feeling/mood of the event?
Then, usually, after a while someone gives some sort of speech. This is a gold mine for me, because now I don’t necessarily have to approach them and ask them questions. They normally say everything they need to say, and I just sit back and listen and write. After that I approach two or three other people, ask them what their general thoughts are, and I’m on my way, hurrying to my car to translate my scribbles.
Unless, of course, this happens:
Me: (After getting quote) “What’s your name?”
Parent: *Looks at me, caught off guard* “Um, *says name*”
Me: “And you’re here with…” Looks at child.
Parent: “Ocean. Spelled like the body of water.”
Me: “Great! And Ocean is your… daughter?”
Parent: “My son.”
The parent then laughed and said it happens all the time, so it could’ve gone much worse.
After that, things usually go pretty smoothly, assuming I got the spelling of everyone’s name and I don’t have to do any follow up, in which case I always try to figure out if I can make a point to go and see them so I don’t have to put the both of us through an incredibly awkward phone conversation.
Then it’s off to the editor, and off to publication! Job well done. Well, hopefully, anyway.