My professional life is about ‘the story.’ I have worked in the news business for over twenty five years. During most of my career I have had to convince people, including academics, politicians, advocates, victims, and those we call ‘real people’ to share their story or their point of view. Many times I have asked people to give up hours of their day, without compensation and no assurance that their story will be given the perspective they wish.
Often when I am trying to convince potential talent to give us ‘their story’, I find I need to make a personal connection, either in terms of children or commute, to give him/her an opportunity to discuss something outside of the topic. This provides an opportunity to let the talent know, that those of us behind the scenes filming the story, are real people as well. It helps to smooth over possible mistrust of the media.
Last year, I found myself going one step further and really letting someone know ‘my story.’ One of the reporters in my office wanted to do a story about the most economically depressed region/county in the United States which happened to be in the southern area of West Virginia. Many people in the area whom I approached felt our organization was like all the others with the intent of doing a story about a poor economy because people in the area were uneducated. It was extremely difficult to get anyone to talk to us. In addition we wanted to interview the local musician who had written about the people, working in coal mines and how difficult it was to survive in this small community. After much discussion, this musician, Alan, told me I was like all the rest of the media, I didn’t care about his story because I came from a bit city, had all the essentials in life and could not relate to the life he lead-no plumbing, no heating, etc. It was then that I confessed I knew his story all too well. I told him I too had grown up poor, no indoor bathroom, carried water in the summer, no central heating, etc and that I too had been ridiculed for being a poor farmer’s daughter. Alan listed to my story and then we started to compare notes on just how poor we each were. We talked for so long, because we really understood each other. (And yes, Alan did agree to an interview and even performed a song on camera).
Alan reminded me of the value in letting others know your story because it well help to learn the story of your consumer, talent, professional colleague. What helps to motivate all of us is the willingness to make a personal connection and invest in others. This may mean more time, effort and a willingness to share your story, but I know from experience, the rewards are much greater than the losses.