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'You should always get to know your community'

Student journalists practice interviewing during Journalism Day Jan. 29.
Student journalists practice interviewing during Journalism Day Jan. 29.

During a typical Friday afternoon in Cro, you might spot a faculty member enjoying a late lunch or students checking their mailboxes. But it was a different scene Jan. 29 when about 20 student journalists descended upon the College Center seeking out people to talk to for upcoming news stories.

In a time when it’s become increasingly easier to conduct interviews electronically, many students are relying on e-mail to talk to their sources. As part of Journalism Day (J-Day), a program sponsored by The College Voice and Office of College Relations, students were asked to go back to the basics and get over their fears of approaching someone by asking people questions face-to-face.

Amy Martin, manager of media relations at the College, was one of several media professionals offering tips.

“Start with an easy question,” she said. “You want the person you are interviewing to be comfortable talking to you. The best interviews are back-and-forth conversations.”

While Lilah Raptopoulos ’11 used the time to speak with freshmen for a story she’s working on for the Voice, other students used the opportunity to learn more about their classmates’ favorite professors.

After the exercise, students heard from two more media experts – Dan Rodricks P’12, a columnist for The Baltimore Sun, and Josh Friedlander ’00, a former editor-in-chief of the Voice and a current research editor at AR, a specialty magazine focusing on the hedge fund industry.

“You should always get to know your community, and that includes staff and faculty,” Friedlander said. You’ll do a better job that way – and if they know and respect you, he said, they’ll trust you and talk to you even for difficult stories.

Friedlander and Rodricks also advised students to take advantage of their close access to professors.

“I found in college that interviewing faculty on subjects they specialized in was a real treasure,” Rodricks said.

Being back on campus reminded Rodricks of when he first started reporting during a college internship. He was asked to cover obituaries and said he was wary of approaching people initially but soon learned that families wanted him to tell the story of their lost loved one.

Said Rodricks: “Asking them tough questions might seem a little awkward to you at first, but you’ll get through that.”

-Rachel Harrington

February 11, 2010