-Jason Kane (Morning Edition)-
As a print journalist, I had always looked forward to shoving a microphone in someone’s face and collecting their words verbatim. Goodbye to the days of miserable scribbling in those skinny reporting notebooks!
So when the moment finally arrived for my first NPR interview – on the subject of racially themed parties at colleges – I arrived in Georgetown all decked out in my top-of-the-line equipment, yanked out my mic and leveled it at a student who claimed she had gone to many such parties. She had all the makings of a perfect source – she’d been funny and eloquent over the phone in the pre-interview, with a rich, flirty voice and a background in journalism (so she promised me that she knew how to speak succinctly and engagingly).
But when she saw that microphone, the same woman who had been calm and collected became a bumbling, sweating mess. For more than an hour we danced around her thoughts as she failed to touch on any of the points we had discussed previously. For a while she even tried to deny that she had ever gone to one of these racially themed parties!
Frustrated, I switched off the microphone and considered giving up. That’s when she looked at me and said, ‘You know, it’s good you’re doing this – it’s an important topic because … (insert perfect, passionate, emotional quote). ‘But wait!’ I said, ‘Why couldn’t you have said that a second ago??’ Microphone back on and the stuttering began: "Well I, um, people, uh, that go to racist parties are sometimes embarrassed. I’ve, like, kind of outgrown …"
I shoved the microphone back into my bag, glanced at the skinny notebook that was laying inside and considered bolting back to print journalism.