Almost Intelligent

If You Are Here You Took A Wrong Turn On The Internet

HellomynameisColinHodd or How Not to Journalism

with 4 comments

Those of you who know me (and at this point I can assume that most of the readership here does. If you’re not one of the twenty-or-so friends and relatives that follow this site, I cannot imagine how you got here. That being said, if you leave a comment letting me know what you were actually looking for, perhaps I can direct you.)

Where was I? Ah, yes, those of you who know me know that people are not my strong point. I don’t like meeting new people by myself. I prefer to have a buffer, someone I know who is better at people, who can perform the introductions and allow me to become comfortable. Some of you have already experienced this. God help you if you’re the only person I know in a room, because I will attach myself to you like a socially parasitic worm. Yes, you’re welcome for the image.

Hi, I'm Colin and I'll be attached to you for the duration of this party. Nice shirt.

Hi, I’m Colin and I’ll be attached to you for the duration of this party. Nice shirt.

With a social wingman (or wingwoman, or wingperson. Wingentity?) I am comfortable. Without one, I am a stew of anxiety. This is a problem, because I am supposed to be a journalist, a job which entails a fair amount of speaking to people you don’t know. Additionally, I don’t know many journalists who bring a friend along for interviews. I don’t see that working out very well. Try this thought experiment, just insert names according to the prompts.

“Hi, my name is Colin Hodd, I work for [successful paper that pays me in gold bullion] I’m here to do an interview with [career-boosting name drop here]. Who, this? This is my friend [your name if you are my friend, or imagine you are, or would like to be]. Yeah, they are here to hold my hand and make sure I don’t wet myself during the interview. Incidentally, I’d rather not do this in a room with a carpeted floor.”

Now, in that scenario, did we get the interview? No, I think not. I should confess, however, the kind of interview we just imagined is not the kind that destroys me. See, when I have a set time, and a set place, and a set purpose for an interview, I gain a kind of compensatory confidence. The fact that I am supposed to be there, and that this person is supposed to talk to me is like armour.

There is a second kind of interview, however. Most of you have seen them. Some of you have done them. Streeters.

In a streeter you take to the streets (originality not being a big part of journalistic jargon) of whatever town you work in, and ask people walking by what they think about a current event. I tried to do this last week with a total softball story about what Whitehorsians (horsiites?) were doing for Solstice. Here are some highlights from the evening of June 12th, when I walked down Main Street in a tortured attempt to communicate with my fellow man.

Attempt one: An older couple on the corner of Main and Third. One of my strategies for dealing with streeters is to rehearse my speech in my head before opening my mouth. One of the wonderful things about writing is that I can rework a sentence dozens of times and no-one is the wiser. This is less effective out loud. Some of you, however, have heard me rehash the same sentence four or five times in conversation trying to get it right.

In any case, what lived in my head as “Hello, my name is Colin Hodd” comes out as “Hellomynameiscolinhodd.” Already I’m terrified. The couple allow me to recover, older people tend to be nice that way. It turns out they are visiting from Illinois, and don’t know anything about the Solstice. I interview them anyway and forget to press record, like a boss.

Attempts two through five: Five more couples from the United States, all utterly unaware that Solstice was a thing.

Attempt Six: I stop a very friendly guy on Main. If you’re playing along, say it with me….wait for it….who doesn’t know Solstice is a thing. He has a good excuse though, since he’d just gotten off the plane. From South Africa. Because only I, looking for people from Whitehorse in Whitehorse could turn up a guy from half a world away.

Interlude: I get an e-mail from my editor telling me that she’s reserved a huge splash page for my story, which if you’re keeping score, has zero interviews so far. This boosts my confidence immensely. Oh, wait, no it doesn’t.

Attempt seven: This interview actually went fairly well. Brian Oman tells me that he is planning to have a campfire at Miles Canyon during Solstice. This will be my most successful interview of the night, and it doesn’t count because Brian is the gardener at the Boys and Girls Club, where I work as the shift supervisor.

This is Brian, my only successful interview. And yes, that is my finger on the lens. Professionalism!

This is Brian, my only successful interview. And yes, that is my finger on the lens. Professionalism!

 

Attempts eight through ten: It turns out that parents trying to herd their children downtown do not like to stop and chat with a two-hundred pound bearded male with an uninviting default expression.

 

Attempt Eleven: I try to shoot fish in a barrel by harassing the patrons of the Klondike Rib and Salmon, a restaurant whose patrons line up outside waiting to get in..Highlights include my choking halfway through my introduction to a group of four people, losing nerve and walking away, and failing to notice a blind woman was blind (despite her cane, and seeing eye dog, I held my hand in the air in front of here to shake until her husband coughed and nodded toward the aforementioned dog and cane.)

 

This went on for two hours. I sent a truncated version of what you just read to my editor in lieu of the story that was asked for. You will be unsurprised to find out they didn’t run it. Turns out “Yeah, I Fucked Up” isn’t a compelling story about Solstice. No kidding. Anyway, there’s no grand point or larger moral here. Just thought I would share a story about a time I tried something that terrified me. I’d like to hear from people in the comments. What was a time you tried something that terrified you? Did it blow up in your face the way it blew up in mine, or did you triumph?

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Written by Colin Hodd

June 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM

4 Responses

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  1. Well Colin, I will share a similar experience with you. Maybe this fear of asking random strangers things runs in the family. When I was in Jasper doing my research I had to do a survey and walk into all 60 restaurants in the town and ask them their opinions on waste management. Needless to say I stumbled on my introduction quite a few times and most people told me they had no opinions on waste management or they would say “Uhhh, you would need the manager for this, sorry” and immediately scurry away and avoid my questions. I only had 5 of 60 restaurants answer my survey, so with insufficient data, I had to do a project on it anyway. However, I lucked out with a nice professor who understands how much people hate surveys and wasn’t concerned with my lack of data (thank god!).

    Hope you enjoyed my failure story too 🙂

    Megan

    June 25, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    • That is also the hidden side of the polls and surveys. Too often they don’t disclose how many people declined to answer.

      Colin Hodd

      July 13, 2013 at 3:05 AM

  2. Well I for one enjoyed this more than a series of streeters about the Solstice (is that a thing?)
    Mah so what if you’re no good at accosting people on the street and barraging them with personal questions? You are a fantastic writer, so just keep writing. I don’t care what it’s about.

    Not Lily

    June 24, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    • Thanks Not Lily. More crucially though, I need to find ways for people to pay me large sums of money for my writing, like how you are getting rich at the CBC.

      Colin Hodd

      June 25, 2013 at 2:15 PM


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