People don’t want to talk anymore.
That’s the eye opening realization I came to most recently, as I sat in yet another interview being referred to a website to help with my questions.
Before elaborating I want to be clear on my relationship and respect for information which can be gathered from the World Wide Web. It’s a very valuable tool and often times helps with story research and yes, even forming questions for the intended interviewee.
Now being faced with the “you’ll find the info on my website” more times than I care to share, I feel it’s important to mention an important fact. We want to talk to you.
Yes, websites, social media pages and prepared notes are helpful, insightful, even valuable, but … we want to talk to you.
Most recently when I was referred to a website at the start of an interview I caught myself before the words left my mouth. The truth is, if we relied solely on said resources, there would be no need for a meeting. Quite simply, we could do what many have made common practice, pull up the site, summarize what we deduce and – done!
In the journalism business, however, we like to offer a bit more depth than a regurgitated website or social media. We live for and love getting that “one quote,” which may properly illustrate the story or offer the true essence of the person being interviewed. Not something you can get from the smart phone or computer screen.
So, as I shared my disappointment in the reference with my colleagues, we began discussing the sadness in realizing how disconnected we are becoming as humans.
To be clear and not confused, this is not a generational problem. Regardless of birth year, we are experiencing this with all age ranges. Truthfully, the elders seem to be just as, if not more guilty than the youth.
For those who haven’t caught it in my past work, I’m passionate about our communities, connecting with community members and sharing the stories (as told to me). The day that my job relies on me doing my research and stories strictly from the internet/web, is likely the day I put down my pen.
Human connection is powerful stuff. There is no greater gift (for me) in this line of work, than having a person express gratitude and pleasant surprise at the end of an interview. What I’ve recently come to realize is the emotion I’m seeing has little to do with me and much to do with the void. We miss human connection, yet we’ve become so desensitized we hardly know it’s missing. That’s sad.
How many people actually use their smart phone to make a phone call? You should try it. How many people use social media to reconnect them with a long lost relative or friend, in person? You should try it. How many people use the internet to look for things to do or plan a vacation getaway? Yeah, you should try that too and then when you arrive – connect.
The downside of course, is that life gets so busy carving out time for connection is a bit more complicated. Schedules are so busy. We’re pulled in so many directions. But who says it has to be someone you know, in order for there to be connection.
Perhaps a smile to a stranger, a wave through at a stop sign to a fellow driver, or small talk while waiting in line at the grocery store is exactly what we all need.
Perhaps for some, this is all just a bit too much and the cyber contact is all you need, to that I say … Godspeed. As for the rest of our readers, I believe that everyone has a story. That being said, it’s just a matter of time until I sit in your company, recorder going and questions coming.
Keeping that in mind, I simply request this – when it does (and in time it will) please be so kind as to save your website and social media plug for the end of our interview. Believe it or not, I actually find you more interesting than the interweb and if I do my job as I should, so will our readers.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.