When I started researching for my eating disorder article, I was terrified the story would flop for a lack of sources. Where would I find people willing to share a dark secret or a difficult time in their life? How could I pry into someone’s private life without feeling like a horrible human being?
It turned out to be easier than I thought.
Women from everywhere on campus were more than willing to share their stories about their own eating disorder or friends with eating disorders. I was so surprised not only at how many stories I heard, but also how willing people were to share them.
The more I started digging, the more stories I heard from friends, acquaintances and strangers. In off-hand conversations, when I mentioned that I was writing an article about eating disorders, many were willing to participate in the conversation.
Sometimes, being a journalist means you have to ask hard questions. You make people feel uncomfortable. You make them fill the silences in interviews. Some journalists actually enjoy these difficult tasks and are good at them — I’m not that kind of journalist.
I don’t enjoy making people feel uncomfortable, and I definitely am not good at aggressive interviews. Reporting for this article, however, made me realize that sometimes there may be a way around that aggressive tactic.
You can be compassionate and still ask the tough questions. I made sure that my sources knew that the intention of my article was not to embarrass them or make them look bad. My intentions were to share their story in hopes of touching a reader who had or knew someone who had an eating problem. This compassionate approach made my interviewees feel more comfortable answering my questions.
Besides learning how to tackle difficult and uncomfortable interviews, I learned that sometimes people want to share their stories. With eating disorders being so prevalent on Cal Poly’s campus, it was easy to find students with opinions on the topic.
Being a journalist doesn’t mean you have to be cut-throat 24/7. It means you have to find ways around that cut-throat mentality to get to the heart of a story.