Connecting with sources

As we talked about last week, interviews are a time to do much more listening than talking.  However, you will always have sources that you connect with more than others.  Sometimes it’s commonalities.  Sometimes it’s from sources coming back at you questions about yourself.  And sometimes it just happens, usually with some of the most memorable interviews.

A couple of years ago, I was covering a small community just outside of my city for the local newspaper.  I was responsible for a column, profile and feature article each week.  One of the features I wrote was about a long-time local family whose mother was 98 at the time.  The family was so intertwined in the community that they had a road named for them.

I went in to their mother’s house to interview her and a few of her children.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they immediately welcomed me warmly.  They were overly nice.  In fact, after talking for probably 45 minutes, I agreed to let them perform their family initiation on me.  I definitely went outside my comfort zone and let them blindfold me to take me on an “airplane ride.”  It was a wood plank in the living room.  No danger was involved.

But, I connected with this family.  Though that page no longer exists, I have stayed in contact with the family.  They’ve invited me to their mother’s birthday parties, including her 100th this summer.  We just connected.

Another source I connected with even longer ago.  About four years ago, I was writing an article for a denomination publication about how its churches were using the Internet to reach out to members.  I found a church in Africa doing this very thing and contacted the pastor.  I still get e-mails from him today.  He checks in with me and asks about my family.  We’ve only spoken through e-mail, but it was a connection.

Sometimes connecting with your sources can mean getting outside of your comfort zone a bit and being blindfolded.  Sometimes it can just mean answering questions about yourself when asked.  Of course, keeping an interview on track is important, but many people feel more comfortable sharing information with someone when they know a bit about the person.  Don’t be afraid to connect with sources!

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