Monday, March 26, 2007
Errin Haines has been a writer for the Associated Press for two years. Based in the AP's Atlanta bureau, Errin covers local and national issues and events affecting the black community. In 2006, Errin was named Emerging Journalist of the Year Award by the National Association of Black Journalists. Here, she tells Ten95 about using her youth to her advantage -- and her favorite pair of shoes.
Where do you get your story ideas?
"The atmosphere! I'm always thinking about stories, whether I'm having drinks with my friends, driving somewhere, watching television, while reporting other stories, and of course, from reading."
If you could go back and talk to Errin Haines five years ago, what would you tell her?
"MAJOR IN SOMETHING ELSE! Seriously, I majored in Communications because I thought I was supposed to. Meanwhile, I was in love with History and really missed Spanish, which I took for six years in middle and high school. It's why I tell students now to major in something they're interested in; you don't need a J-degree to do this job as long as you've got the internships."
Has anyone doubted you because of your youth? How did you prove them wrong, or use your youth to your advantage?
"Definitely. Despite the fact that I've just turned 21 for the eighth time, people still mistake me for a college student. While I've come to appreciate that as I put more distance between my professional and undergrad selves, it can be inconvenient when you're hoping to command the respect you think should come with working for the world's oldest and largest newsgathering organization.
"Still, being underestimated has come in handy with some sources. And nothing breaks the ice with peers as sources like a pair of Seven jeans."
What's your reporting/writing/editing ritual? What puts you in the zone?
"When I write, I tend to write straight through without stopping. But first, I take as much time as I can to think about stories, which sounds obvious, but it's usually the first thing that goes out the window when you're under the gun and on deadline.
"I think of as many open-ended questions as possible before I leave or call for an interview. I don't like reading beforehand other stories people have written about something I am writing about, but I do research stories as much as I can in advance. Letting people tell me what they want me to know first usually helps to build trust, and then we get into why I'm actually there. I prefer to interview people in person, in their surroundings.
"Sometimes I can get the bulk of a story down without having a lede, or with just a dummy lede that I know I will change later. Sometimes, I can't budge without knowing exactly how my story will start. I do a lot of talking about my story before I sit down to write it: with my editor, with my mentors, with other reporters whom I trust and respect. It helps me focus and sift through my notebook much faster. Many people are involved in my editing process before I turn a story in!
"Before I start writing, I usually strike up "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copeland...just kidding. I'm not sure exactly what puts me in the zone. I will say backing up to a deadline helps. There's something about having to get something done that just forces me to rise to the occasion. I also pray for "Eureka!" moments that will put me in a rhythm."
Tell us about your most fabulous pair of shoes.
"Only one pair? Hmm...I've got a pair of BCBG matte silver sandals with a crazy high heel and braiding across the toe. They're always a hit. I heart them...They make me feel like a Greek goddess! The best part is that they don't even hurt to dance in!"
What trait are you unable to turn off once you go home from work?
"I've been told I can sound like I'm interviewing people when I'm just trying to get to know them or have a conversation with them. What can I say? I ask questions for a living. It's not anything I'm doing deliberately, and I certainly wouldn't want my friends or family or a potential suitor to think that I was interrogating them! I'm working on turning off the rapid-fire, press conference style inquiries."
Who would play you in a movie?
"Whitney Houston -- pre-crack, of course."
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?
"Probably; I frequent a wine bar in my neighborhood quite a bit."
Use "concubinin'" in a sentence.
"I hate you for this. But not as much as I hate concubinin."
Personal Best -- Tell us about what you consider your best/most important piece of work so far, and why it means so much to you.
"Although I was born, raised and have lived in Atlanta for most of my life, it wasn't until last year that I stumbled upon this little-known but extremely significant piece of the city's ugly racial history. Doing this story allowed me to write about three of my favorite subjects: My hometown, history and race."
Rioting Anniversary Stirs Atlanta Anew
Recalling Racial Tensions of 1906 Seen as Key to Honest Appraisal -- and Healing
(Published September 2, 2006)
ATLANTA -- As a boy, Farrow Allen Jr. heard stories about the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 from his mother, whose father was hustled out of town to safety at the height of the four-day melee, in which 10,000 blacks and whites clashed in the streets.
Allen said he recalls little of the stories he was told as a child about his grandfather Luther Price, a fair-skinned black postmaster who ran a general store in a black neighborhood at the turn of the last century. But he remembers being scared to death of the stories -- and of the South.
Continue reading full text of story here.
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