Confessions of an Anxious Journalist

Journalism didn’t come naturally for me. I chose the degree of English Literature on my first day of college. After 10 weeks of classes it became apparent that I could basically use that degree for only two careers: teaching or publishing novels. I didn’t want to teach, and the prospect of making it big on a novel are slim, so my counselor recommended I try Journalism.

My Journalism classes were inspiring and exciting — I found my tribe of people who were likewise set on changing the world and toeing the line of overdosing on coffee!

There was just one not-so-small snag: interviews. It was difficult enough to get my participation points in class, let alone think of asking a person questions! Looking back, my fear seems bizarre, but I’d always struggled with being a shy, socially-anxious person. College was my first diversion from being home-schooled and I seriously lacked social skills. I just wanted to write without having to interact with anyone, was that so much to ask? Spoiler alert: it was, according to my professors.

My first interview was over the phone, shakily asking the owner of a bakery questions while desperately trying to take adequate notes. It was so terrifying that I remember dreading it for hours prior to the interview and internally picking it apart for days afterward.

I thought there was no hope for me as a journalist after college. Who would want to answer questions from a self-conscious newbie? So I did the only natural thing to do when faced with a dilemma: I turned to Google. The search “socially-anxious journalist” pulled up several narratives from people like me, people who desperately wanted to flourish in their career despite crippling anxiety.

This newfound knowledge coupled with some helpful tips bolstered my courage and inspired me to keep trucking along. Now I want to share some tips that have aided me through dozens of interviews.

  1. People love to talk about themselves. This is a fact and one that helps journalists immensely. Yes, there are occasional exceptions where you have to pry answers from your sources, but if you show interest in their specialty/company/story 99 percent of the time you’ll get your answers.
  2. Adequate research builds confidence. I ALWAYS research my subject and prepare a list of questions prior to an interview. It’s ridiculously easy for today’s journalists to do this. We have a world of knowledge at our fingertips with the internet, so feel free to use it to your advantage.
  3. Remember that people won’t ruminate over your mistakes, so you shouldn’t either! I’ve stuttered, misspoke, even had to apologize for completely losing my train of thought: nobody has ever minded and I survived — even when I have to hear the painful playback while transcribing!
  4. It gets easier. Really, it does. I still have my nerve-wracking moments, especially if my interview subject is difficult, but it’s infinitely easier now that I have practice and have learnt from my mistakes *ahem* fyi make sure your voice recording device has full battery charge before every interview…
  5. Try to keep your end goal in mind. Think of the incredible piece of Journalism you’re going to have the privilege to craft after your interview is wrapped up! Plus, you’ll always leave an interview with more knowledge than you had before and that’s pretty awesome.

worry

I hope this helps someone feel a bit more confident as a journalist! Happy writing! 🙂

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