Know The Boundaries



People are shy.

I say that truthfully. Most people don’t want their names in the paper. And they don’t want their pictures taken either.Town officials are the exception. Most are used to it.

It doesn’t matter what kind of story it is. Journalists need to know the boundaries of the public.

You have to tread lightly.

I was at a flu clinic last week in Mansfield and I had a photographer with me. I wrote a flu feature/update and localized it for our readers.

I arrived first and met with the coordinator in charge and introduced myself. I didn’t start talking to anyone right away. I thought that it would be rude to run up to people as they came in to get their flu shots.

The coordinator and I came up with a plan. She would ask people as they signed in at the clinic and we would go from there. That way I wasn’t pissing anyone off or making anyone uncomfortable, while still doing my job. I really hate making people feel uncomfortable for these kinds of stories. I mean, I just wanted to talk to them about their concerns with the flu shot and how long it had taken them to find a clinic that actually had vaccines left to give out to the public.

It took almost a half-hour before someone wanted to talk. It ended up being the lead of my story.

Flu fighters Locals battle scourge; seek vaccine

The story came out great. It would have been nice to have talked to more people, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

It doesn’t matter where I am or what the story is. Nine out of 10 people don’t want to talk to the paper. It’s something I learned really quickly.

I was at a tree lighting before Christmas and no one wanted to talk to me. Thankfully, I found a few families that were okay with it, but it was a harmless story. All I was going to ask was how much fun they wanted to have.

I don’t consider myself an intimidating person at 5’8″ and 180 pounds. I always have a pen in my mouth and I’m as friendly as humanly possible when it comes to talking to members of the public. I think just me introducing myself gets people nervous.

It’s another facet of the job that isn’t talked about in school. The editors I’ve worked with haven’t said much about it either. It’s just the way things are. Maybe it’s because I work in smaller towns. I don’t know, but I’ve gotten used to it.

The boundaries are pretty clear. Don’t press people. If they say “no” to talking to you, thank them for their time and move on. Don’t take it personally, either.

Remember to keep a smile and be polite.

That’s the best you can do.



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