Writing Stuff

At the end of my internship, I have begun writing two blog posts for Tikkun. This was to add some pieces to my portfolio, which was a nice suggestion by my supervisor, as that will be important if I apply to journalism jobs in the future. I really have to thank the Dickinson Career Center for allowing me to connect with such helpful people!

The first is the piece about the prison hunger strike solidarity exhibit in Sacramento that I mentioned in my last post. This experience taught me some about protest regulations, to be sure, but I also gained other things from it. It allowed me to practice on-the-spot interviews and information gathering. I also had an interesting conversation with a freelance journalist from Sacramento, who told me that on slow days when she can’t find much to write about, she often just walks by the capitol building to see if anything is going on. That was actually how she had ended up at the protest in the first place. She said that she thought it was always a good idea for a journalist to know the hot spots of activity in their area for this purpose, which I had never considered before.

The second blog post is a profile of Sandow Birk, a painter living in L.A., for Tikkun’s art gallery. This gave me more experience with planning questions and carrying out an interview over the phone. Unfortunately, I really hate phone communication, because I think it’s difficult for conversation to flow naturally, especially if you have never met the person. I realized the minute I called Sandow that I had no idea what to say at the start of our conversation. Was I supposed to small talk for a while? Or immediately ask a specific question about the use of humor in a particular painting? Either way seems awkward. That is something I’ll have to figure out in the future, because it definitely gave me some pause.

My supervisor had suggested that I should prepare for this interview by reading past interviews with Sandow and trying to figure out what more could be added to the conversation. I did this, and I think I came up with some interesting new questions, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to ask the old ones as well, even though I already knew the answers. I decided to just go for it and ask my more specific, differently-angled questions. It turned out pretty well. Sandow gave me all the information I already knew in the process of answering my questions. I figured he would, since he had already practiced giving those answers before.

Still, sometimes he seemed a little taken aback by my questions. I think some of them were hard to answer on the spot without giving some thought beforehand. If I had to do this interview again, I would do it over email. It’s not the kind of situation where I would want to provoke or surprise him into giving more truthful answers, and I probably would have had an easier time getting more complex answers and direct quotes if I had given him the chance to write them out. I also wouldn’t have to worry about small talk with a stranger on the phone. This was a good learning experience, and it will make me consider the forum of my interviews more carefully in the future.

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