Reporter’s Dilemma

When I first started interviewing people for my “Working” blog, I thought that it would be cheating if I interviewed my mom about being a lawyer, or my best friend about what it’s like working as an adjunct, but that feeling is starting to shift; I’m reminded again and again that meeting perfect total strangers is not really possible; or maybe it is, but most of us are so guarded that it’s unlikely they’ll feel comfortable enough to share what they do with a total stranger.

But Studs Turkel (author of Working) probably found total strangers to interview, I thought. He was a real reporter. And who knows, maybe he did do just that—but how? I can see walking down the street, and meeting a hotel doorman and striking up a conversation that eventually results in an interview; but that probably took a while. In my experience, telling people exactly what you’re up to makes them a little nervous. Sometimes it makes them more nervous when the thing you’re talking about seems to have little benefit for you or them, so I’ve taken to reminding interviewees that if they talk to me, their name will be on the web, and it will also bring people to my website; so there you go, motive. (I also distrust people without a motive—maybe it’s common sense?)

But my real motive is a lot more than that. A desire to really know what people do and how they feel about it, and to share these with the world; it’s an altruistic obsession that I’ve had for years. Maybe it’s because I’ve had so many jobs—camp counselor, pet-sitter, kennel manager, waitress, teacher, Dunkin Donuts employee, office worker, writer, journalist—but there’s something about hearing people talk about the thing that they’re enmeshed in every day that makes me want to hear more, and gives me a difficult time in keeping the notebook in my bag, or not hitting the “Record” button on my phone.

A journalist is taught that objectivity is key, meaning that we ought not to be close to those we are interviewing. But for a story like this? Where I just have people talk about what they do? I guess I decided to throw that objectivity stance to the wind, because I’ve interviewed my closest friends and family, and I plan on continuing to; and I’m interviewing their friends, and people that they know, and I’m learning more every day. This is the best place I could possibly be.

What’s an interesting job that you’ve held now or in the past? Do you know anyone with a job that fascinates you? Feel free to respond here or contact me if you have any recommendations.

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