Reporting: “Embrace the awkward”

Yesterday I spoke with a student about how to get in touch with some sources who weren’t returning her calls. (Yes, she was phoning, in addition to sending emails.) I suggested other people who might be equally good sources and gave her other options on how to get responses. As we talked about using Twitter and sliding into sources’ dms, she said, “OK, but it seems super awkward.”

I agreed: “Most of reporting IS super awkward.”

Reporters insert themselves into the best and worst times of people’s lives. They go where they don’t belong and get in your face. They ask intrusive questions of people they’ve never met and will never speak with again. They want to know details and facts and “how do you feel?” Watch reporters in action and you might conclude they’re rude.

Meanwhile, no one likes being rejected, and reporters have to get used to being told “no comment” and being ignored entirely by sources. Now that the president of the United States has declared the news media “the enemy of the people,” being met with outright hostility isn’t uncommon.

“Super awkward,” indeed.

As an introvert, I came to see the “Professional Reporter’s Notebook” was my badge of authority, my letter of introduction. I would pull it out of my back pocket and, pen in hand, it gave me a reason to ask strangers questions. It reduced my sense of awkwardness into a shape that would fit into a little box: I was doing my job.

Last night I tweeted about the exchange with the student. My conclusion about reporting is shared by many. Some responses:

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