As a journalist, I’ve interviewed students, faculty members, working mothers, restaurant entrepreneurs, boutique owners, government officials, and the list goes on. From short, hard news pieces to lengthy features, interviewing is critical to the success of a story. But in all the stories I’ve written and all the people I’ve interviewed, I had never been asked a question by an interviewee before. You know, besides the basic ‘where are you from?’ and ‘what are you studying in school?’
Usually, I’m the one asking the questions. Usually, they’re not interested in me and that’s the way it should be. They’re the one being interviewed.
I recently had an experience where I interviewed a woman about her fitness class that she has taught for 21 years. This woman is older than my parents and she’s got to be the healthiest person I’ve ever met. She trains in the rain and snow and loves it, while I can barely get myself to my indoor gym once a semester.
This woman deserved an interview; she had done so much and impacted people’s lives in such a positive way. I was excited to speak with her.
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked her what the most rewarding part of her job was. I watched as a surprised look grew over her face. Then tears welled up in her eyes.
The tears surprised me, and surprised her, too. After she told me how much her job meant to her, she looked straight at me and said, ‘what’s the most rewarding part of your job?’
I froze. I ask that question to a lot of people in a lot of interviews and no one had ever turned around and asked it back to me. I don’t know if I had ever honestly thought about the answer.
I love writing, and I’ve loved it my entire life. In elementary school, reading and writing came the most naturally to me. I loved library time and cared about how my handwriting looked.
In high school, I took advanced English courses and enjoyed the challenge of writing, and pushing myself to write well.
I chose communication as my major in college and learned to write journalistically. I began writing for Scroll and I’ve held many different positions within the organization, learning a new skill set during my time at each.
Now I intern at a magazine, writing feature stories rather than hard news. But in all my time writing, I had never stopped to ask myself why I like doing it. All I knew at the moment was that I like writing and I liked writing about her. So, that’s what I told her.
I told her I want to write good news, the kind people want to hear. The kind of news that makes people smile, like a man overcoming great obstacles to pursue his passions or the child who their lemonade stand money to charity. The real stories of good people doing good things.
As a journalist, I’ve interviewed a lot of different people for a lot of different stories. I get to meet people like the woman who asked my own question back to me. That’s the most rewarding part of my job.