Help us help you. I guess that’s the motto when it comes to interviewing people for journalistic reasons.
Being in journalism since my first semester of my sophomore year, I have written countless stories and interviewed hundreds of people. About three-quarters of those people interviewed have been students and the other quarter have been adult officials at Granite Bay High School. We always try to include school representatives in order to incorporate better sources of expertise. Trust me, it makes a difference in our stories.
I don’t think there has been any time when a student has declined an interview. Usually students are always cooperative, even if its because they just want to see there name or face in the school paper.
However, sometimes adults are different.
Out of the numerous times I have requested interviews, there’s always a small minority of adult school representatives that say no. Why? I would love to know the answer to that question. Some have valid reasons, while others, I believe, simply do not.
Being a journalist, we always try to find the best sources possible for our stories, and when we hear the answer “no” to an interview, it kills us inside because that’s one less interview to make our story that much better. Basically, it changes the story.
Yes, I know journalism isn’t supposed to come easy – it’s not meant to be. Yet when I spend hours asking and searching for the right adult official and we finally find them, just to be denied an interview for basically no particular reason, frankly it sucks.
Now if you have a valid reason, that’s great, and I respect that. For instance, we write several sensitive stories on things like abortion, death, drugs, sex, alcohol and mental illness, and I know that some of these interviews can be difficult and delicate to the interviewee. Sometimes, with these types of stories, people have declined. But there have also been other people that are willing to do the interview and be completely open with me.
However, when I am writing a nonsensitive story and the principal of our school along with my journalism advisor refer me to a particular administrator to interview about a topic that is in their area of expertise, and that individual declines me for no reason, something is clearly wrong.
Now you can’t say that this administrator who declined didn’t know anything about the topic, because then that would mean that our principal and my journalism advisor are referring me to the wrong person. And trust me, that’s not the case. They clearly know more than I do, so I respect them and their judgments.
But it’s frustrating because I think sometimes this minority of administrators and or teachers generally take advantage of us as journalists and just think it’s easy for us to find another source. Well, let me tell you, it’s not.
In addition, when an adult school representative declines an interview, I think they forget that they are actually hurting our grade. It’s called Advanced Journalism. Yes, it is actually a class. And yes, we do actually get graded on work.
I believe another problem is that there’s a trust issue. Some adults might not want to be interviewed because they are liable for what they say and don’t want to get in trouble. But I also think that they are scared that their quote will be different from what they actually said.
If you think that has happened to you or your quote, I’ll go out on a limb here and say, sorry – you actually said it. Don’t blame the writer, we are just doing our jobs, maybe just be careful with what you say next time. We are just students trying to do good journalism. We aren’t trying to hurt you or make you look bad at all – we are just trying to tell the story. Remember, we are always willing to give your questions in advance if you would like to see and prepare for them if that would help.
So when adult school representatives say no to an interview, there comes the question of do you really trust your students? Now I would hope the answer would be a sincere yes. I don’t get how you could say no and actually enjoy your job.
Most GBHS administrators and teachers have no problem doing an interview. For example, Jennifer Leighton has always been open in all interviews with me, along with other frequent interviewees Brandon Dell’Orto and Jarrod Westberg – who always go out their way to add their perspective. Again, I am referring to the minority of school representatives, definitely not the majority.
Unfortunately, it’s just the rarity of the adult officials who won’t interview who make me want to rip my hair out. All I want is a little cooperation. Is that too much to ask for?
So next time you are asked for an interview, think twice about what you say, and try to help your students succeed in doing good journalism.