My friend Erin, who teaches darling eight and nine-year-olds, was recently talking to the class about various professions and told her students that she knew a reporter (THAT'S ME). The kids wrote up a list of questions and Erin asked if I would mind answering them and sending them back to her. Mind?! I'm guessing these kids thought they'd get quick, well-written responses back from the journalist-girl. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I haven't felt this important since I got elected president of my third grade class (I wasn't even a candidate). I not only had a great time answering these questions, I learned a lot about myself, like that it's maybe not all that awesome to brag about the time you met Des'ree. 1. How much work is it to write a story?
Sometimes it is a lot of work to write a story, but sometimes I can write a story in about ten minutes! It depends on what I'm writing about. If IÄôm writing about a really interesting person, like an artist, or if IÄôm writing about a really big event, like a music festival, or a really important event, like election day, it sometimes takes me a long time to talk to all the people I need to talk to and put everything they say in my story. But if IÄôm writing about a really boring meeting, I like to write it fast and get it over with.
2. How long does it take to write a story?
Sometimes I can write a story really quickly. But sometimes it takes a few hours. I get writerÄôs block sometimes, when I canÄôt think of a good way to get my story started Äì then writing a story can take all day. I hate when this happens.
3. How hard is it to come up with ideas for stories?
This depends on the time of year. Right after Christmas and other holidays, when itÄôs winter and very cold and everybody is getting back to work and school...it always seems like there are no stories to write! It happens in the summer too, when everyone is in vacation mode and nobody wants to work (including me!) At those times of year we all have to work extra hard to think up good stories. I do have to go to town meetings almost every week, though, and I almost always have a story to write about those.
At other times of year there is so much going on that you have lots of stories to write. Right now people are starting to think a lot about the upcoming elections so there are lots of stories to write.
4. How do you find your information for stories?
I find my information in a lot of different places. I work for a weekly, county paper, so we mostly cover things that happen in this county. I get a lot of my information from town board meetings Äì thatÄôs when the mayor and other town leaders get together and talk about whatÄôs going on. I also get a lot of information from people who work for the town and for the county, like the town manager, the police officers and the sheriff.
But being a reporter sometimes means getting information from unlikely people Äì like the barbers down the street, or people who work in the shops around here. They all know whatÄôs going on because they spend so much time in town. Sometimes people walk right into my office with story ideas, and thatÄôs always really helpful.
5. Have you ever met any famous people?
I've met a couple of politicians. IÄôve interviewed a U.S. Congressman and a Senator. IÄôve also gone to some musical events where there are bands that are pretty well known.
When I was working at a magazine in London while I was in college I met a couple of famous people. One was this British guy who everyone said was pretty important (but I didnÄôt know who he was). The other was a singer, DesÄôree. IÄôm not sure if you guys know who that is, but she was really nice and fun to interview. I was asking people what they were planning to do for New YearÄôs and she said she was planning to spend it on a beach with all her friends.
6. Is being a journalist really hard?
There are some things that are hard about it, like with every job. One thing you have to do when you are a journalist is call up complete strangers and get them to tell you about their life. This can be hard, especially if they donÄôt want to talk about it. Sometimes you have to interview people about crimes, or about something they did that people didnÄôt like, or maybe the person is just shy. This can be a little hard. Luckily I really like talking to new people so I donÄôt mind too much. I think everyone has strengths and whatÄôs hard for some people isnÄôt hard for others. My husband is a scientist and I would be very bad at his job, doing experiments all day. IÄôm pretty sure IÄôd get frustrated and give up.
But also you get to talk to people about things that are really happy Äì like if theyÄôre opening a new business, or won an award, or if youÄôre just writing a nice story about what a great person they are. That can be a lot of fun.
I like to write so the writing part isnÄôt too hard (except when I get writerÄôs block!) You have to turn your stories in by a deadline, which can be tough. Since we are a weekly paper, though, I usually have a lot of time to write my stories.
7. What do you like best about your job?
The thing I like best about my job is being able to talk to people about what they love to do. There are a lot of interesting people in this world and IÄôm lucky enough to have a job where I just get to sit and talk with them for a while and then write about it. I learn a lot, too. IÄôve always loved talking to new people. Sometimes I just walk right up to strangers and start talking to them. So to have a job where I get to do that and get paid is really great.
8. What has been your best idea for a story?
This is a really hard question, but a good one. I canÄôt think of just one answer, though. I once wrote a story about this creek in town. The name of the creek is spelled all sorts of different ways and nobody knows the correct spelling Äì even people whoÄôve lived here all their lives. That was a fun story to write because I got to learn some history about the town and talk to interesting people.
Once I wrote a story about what kinds of rings people have on their cell phones. That story was my editorÄôs idea, but I had a lot of fun writing it. IÄôve written a couple stories about how roadwork and money and other things are affecting the people who live and work in this town, and it is always really interesting to interview people for those stories Äì they have a lot to say.
I also write a column. This is where I get to say whatever I want. This is one of my favorite things to write because I get to choose the subject and just write about how I feel. IÄôve written about getting married, politics and my dogs, just to name a few.
9. Is your job fun?
My job is really fun. Like I said, I get to talk to all sorts of interesting people Äì I get to interview chefs, musicians, teachers, businesspeople, and a whole lot more. Plus, I get to go to a lot of fun events.
On a few occasions I was able to participate in the stories IÄôve written. I once rode 75 miles all over the place on the back of a motorcycle because I was writing about a fundraiser all these bikers were participating in. Another time I got all dressed up in a firemanÄôs uniform Äì including a heavy oxygen tank and mask Äì and got to do a safety drill with the local firefighters.
ItÄôs also really exciting to see your name in print every week. That is definitely fun.
10. What made you decide to be a reporter?
When I was in sixth grade I wrote this paper that the teacher decided to read out loud to the class. She said it was really good. IÄôd always liked writing but I remember at that moment I thought that maybe not only did I like it, but was good at it too. So I decided to be a writer. I was an English major in college and when I graduated I worked at a couple jobs that were fun, but not exactly what I wanted to do, then decided I wanted to write. So I wrote letters to all the papers in the area until one of them would hire me. Really, I did that.
11. Where do you work?
I work in a town called Pittsboro, North Carolina. ItÄôs pretty small. Everybody knows one another.
12. How do you decide what to write about?
I have to go to certain meetings Äì like town meetings, and other events Äì and get a lot of stories from going to those. I also have to go through all the sheriffÄôs and police department reports and get stories from those too. I also just watch whatÄôs going on in town and see if there is anything worth writing about. A lot of times people come into the office or call and ask if IÄôll write about something and a lot of the time my editor (heÄôs my boss) will ask me if I can write a certain story. Sometimes he and I talk about story ideas and come up with what I can write about that week.
13. Have you ever interviewed and dogs or other pets?
I havenÄôt really interviewed any animals, but I wish I could. I have, however, written about some animals. IÄôve written a few stories about our local animal shelter. IÄôve written a story about a dog trainer, too. I once wrote a story about a horse farm. I have two dogs and a cat and sometimes I talk to them, but IÄôve never put that in the paper.
14. How often do you get a day off?
I get vacation time, just like most working people do. I get weekends off too, unless there is something I need to cover. Since I work at a weekly paper, things are a little more relaxed. If I worked at a daily paper IÄôd probably have a much more stressful schedule. I work with really nice people who are very understanding if I need to take a day off if I am sick, or have something I need to do and I really appreciate that.
15. What is the best part about your job?
I donÄôt have to sit in an office all day. ItÄôs part of my job to get out there and talk to people and be there when something important happens and I like that.
16. Have you ever interviewed your family members?
I ask them all sorts of questions but I havenÄôt interviewed them for a story here at the paper. I do write about them in my column a lot though. Once I wrote a whole column about how my Dad isnÄôt a very good speller, even though heÄôs very smart.
Once for our Christmas edition of the paper all the staff members interviewed one another about what their family does for the Christmas holiday every year and then we all wrote stories about each other. That was a lot of fun.