Reporters are unappreciated. Yes, I am bitter, but through my work with the New York Times, I found just how much reporters do that goes unnoticed. Reporters are brave; they go into the battlefield unarmed and unprotected. They have to believe in humanity’s will to tell the truth despite constant scrutiny and firsthand experience of negative events. They need to know different mediums in an ever-changing society with short attention spans, and they need to do it all before deadline. Despite all this, reporters are often just a byline. This week showed me life beyond that.
I needed to write a story on a business in Jackson Heights, and, even though businesses crowded the streets, I came across some difficulties. For example, a lot of possible interviewees could only speak Spanish. This changed their status from “maybe I can interview them” to “I wish I spoke Spanish, too.” Then, people who spoke English would go off-topic when asked questions. They would turn a question about business into an answer about their home. With all this talk about homes, eventually my partner and I decided to move away from the business scene and move closer to the residential side. In our longest interview, the interviewee spoke about the historic district of Jackson Heights, so we changed our topic completely to fit covering the historic district. Now that we landed on a proper topic, we could find more interviews.
The residents of Jackson Heights greeted us with smiles and answered our questions with open arms. The residential sector surprisingly held a larger interviewee pool. My partner and I found people that not only cared for the story but also, for us. They told us what streets to avoid and what areas held better interviewees. They cared in a way I never thought capable from a stranger. At one point someone almost invited us into their home.
There was a strange level of trust communicated. They respected my job and my guts to ask real questions about their way of life.
Living like a New York Times Reporter gave me the chance to have newfound appreciation for journalism. Sure, I already loved the profession, but now I love it even more. Who knows, maybe I’ll interview the citizens of Jackson Heights again someday.
If you want to check out the article my partner and I wrote on Jackson Heights, go to: https://medium.com/writing-the-big-city-august-2017/jackson-heights-residents-find-solace-in-their-historic-district-4fabd249d997