Thursday, February 08, 2007
I call it The Introduction. Those crucial first few minutes of chatting up source can determine whether you'll have an informative conversation or a phone hung up on you. You almost have to psyche yourself up the way you would if you were calling a crush for the first time -- make sure to say their name right, don't sound too anxious, and for heaven's sake, don't say anything stupid.
Some things work better than others. And after a while, you develop your own approach. My tried-and-true technique (in most cases): smile. Just smile, smile, smile smile smile.
I like to put people at ease. To be the welcoming, understanding, nonjudgmental acquaintance you feel like you can tell anything to. So I introduce myself, the company I'm working for and the piece I'm working on with a smile and a warm voice. And it usually works. Sometimes it takes a minute for a subject to warm up, but I most often walk away with a good, informative conversation and having had a few chuckles with a new acquaintance.
It changes, of course, with the story or the source. I can't be buddy-buddy with a police officer dealing with a hostage situation. In those cases, I have to put some bass in my voice (because I have the tendency to sound like a 12-year-old) and make sure they can see that I'm about business. It's hit-or-miss in these instances -- sometimes officials can get annoyed with journalists. But at least they can respect the fact that you're focused on doing your job.
So my question to you, fellow journos -- what's your approach? Homegirl from next door? Information hound? Curious researcher? How do you introduce yourself? And how do your sources respond? continue...