Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Adaptability is an important trait for a journalist. I might begin my morning interviewing a senator, and end my afternoon photographing an alligator’s birthday party.
Throw in a softball game, a town council meeting and a car wreck, and adaptability becomes part of my everyday routine.
Covering stories that involve children also requires me to be flexible. Take what happened on August 31: I had to hand over my camera and reporter’s pad to a couple of future journalists.
“Okay, Miss Reporter, are you finished? Because we want to ask you some questions now,” demanded seven-year-old Rose Beauchemin. “Yes, and I want to take your picture, just like you took ours,” insisted Tristen Blathers, also 7 years old.
Rose and Tristen were summer campers at Beck Recreation Center in Georgetown. I had the pleasure of interviewing and photographing them both on several occasions. Little did I know these two were paying particular attention to my words and actions, all the while contemplating a career in the news business.
“Okay, hand them over, we will be very gentle,” said Rose, pointing to my camera and writing pad.
Hand them over? They had to be kidding. I had just watched Rose scale the rock wall in record-breaking time, and watched Tristen make free throws that some middle school girls couldn’t make. Gentle did not seem to be something in these girls’ DNA.
Adaptability and flexibility escaped me until I looked into the eyes of both girls and saw how serious they were. They honestly wanted to interview me, and were standing with open hands, ready to proceed.
“Okay, now, look,” I began, stalling at turning over my camera. “We can do the interview no problem. But this is my first stop of the day, and if you drop my camera, I won’t be able to work the rest of the day.” I paused and waited for them to proceed without the camera.
Epic failure. They weren’t budging without the camera. “You told us that the camera helps tell the story to the person that reads the newspaper,” reminded Rose. “Yes, and you said it was important for us to not look at you while you took our picture. So don’t do that when I take your picture.”
Seriously? They had paid attention to everything I had asked them earlier in the week. I could no longer stand my ground.
Tristen traded me her basketball for my camera, and Rose took over my reporter’s pad like she had been interviewing people all her young life.
Luckily for Tristen, (as well as for me) all she had to do was point and shoot, and the camera did the rest of the work for her.
Rose began by taking a deep breath, followed by a rapid succession of questions.... “Now Miss Reporter, can you spell your first and last name for me? Okay, now spell it one more time so I make sure I have it spelled correctly,” Rose instructed.
“How long have you been playing basketball? Where do you go to school? What grade will you be in, and how old are you?”
As I began to answer the questions, I tried to glance over at Tristen to make sure my camera was still in one piece. “Uh, uh, uh,” Tristen admonished as she shook her head. “Do not look at me while I am taking your picture. You are supposed to be playing basketball and answering questions.”
“This is so much fun. Thank you for playing reporter with us,” Rose said.
“Let’s switch now, I will ask the questions and you take the pictures,” Tristen told Rose. “But be very careful. If you drop her camera she will get fired.”
As I dribbled the basketball and took the occasional shot, Tristen and Rose focused on their roles as reporters/photographers.
“Did we do good? Did we ask the right stuff?” inquired Rose. “Can we look at the pictures? I think we got some good shots,” Tristen added.
I praised both girls for their interview skills, and their care and accuracy with my camera: “You both did great, and I am very proud of you.”
As we sat on the gym floor, “crisscross applesauce,” looking at pictures, I began to realize just how much words spoken by a reporter can affect others.
The two little summer campers thanked me for teaching them how to be reporters – and I thanked them for teaching me that a reporter’s spoken words are just as important as their written words.