My Adventure in Journalism: Part Two
My first assignment for the paper was to interview one of the elderly people in town. Just learn about his life, and give him an opportunity to tell his story. It was supposed to be the start of a new feature for the paper, and my article was intended to show future submitters what exactly the articles were supposed to look like. My editor assigned this task to me about ten minutes after I walked in the door on my first day, which means that at no point did anyone with the paper actually tell me how to be a journalist. There was no instruction or advice on how to ask the questions, what questions to ask, or even a deadline. They just threw me out into the world and told me to learn things. My academic background wasn’t really much help either. I can tell you all about Paradise Lost or The Tale of Sunjata, but my school has rarely asked me to do anything other than academic analysis of literature. The fact that I had no idea what I was doing was only the first obstacle I faced on the assignment, but luckily the other obstacle was much more mundane. The person I had to interview was somewhere around ninety-six years old and didn’t actually remember a lot about his past. He remembered the big events being in the navy, meeting his wife, his children, but he really didn’t remember a lot of details about these things. The things he did remember weren’t exactly groundbreaking either, he was a small town guy and had lived a small town life.
This is the part where I tell you all about the late night studying and research; where I tell you about reading all of some famous newspaper man’s work to get an idea on how it is done; and where I lay out in excruciating detail how I molded myself into an amazing journalist just in time to send off an incredible article moments before the deadline struck. I’m sure that would make for an interesting read, but none of that actually happened. Honestly I never even considered doing any of that, until just a few seconds ago when I wrote that sentence. What really happened is that I wrote down a whole bunch of questions on my little notepad and went to the interview. I spent roughly two hours just having a conversation with the people and scribbled down a few notes when they told me something that might be interesting. That’s how I’ve conducted the majority of my interviews for the paper, just simply having a conversation with the subject. I don’t know if what I’m doing is “right”, but what I’ve realized about journalism and writing in general is that there’s really no right way to do it. Journalism is all about getting the information out to the public, and really as long as you are accomplishing that task it doesn’t matter how you got there.