Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Most Interesting Man in the World

I wasn't a good enough reporter for the assignment.

Maybe that was the reason my editor gave it to me. Maybe it was to challenge me to become a better reporter. To stretch myself. To do something outside of the ordinary. Or maybe he just wanted what every editor wants, which is to sell papers.

For about eight weeks near the end of my tenure as a newspaper reporter, my editor decided to add a weekly "At Random" feature to our publication. He would go through the phone book and select five or six people for me to call. The first one to agree to be interviewed would get a feature story written about them.

Written by me.

I hated this idea. I still hate this idea. It goes against everything I believe news to be about. Some random dude who doesn't have caller ID and had nothing better to do than agree to an interview with a reporter is not news.

News was government actions. News was police solving crimes. Hell, by the end I believed news was a charity holding a fund raiser. But not the "At Random" feature.

My ultimate goal was to get in and out of the interview as quickly as possible. I wanted to find out the first reasonably interesting thing about a person, get them to talk about it for long enough to make the article long enough to satisfy my boss and be done with it.

I'd be embarassed to go back and read those stories now and the laughable effort I put in to them.

I bring all this up because whenever some publication picks their "Most Fascinating Person" of the year, it's inevitably an actor or celebrity designed to sell magazines. Odds are, there are more fascinating people taking a walk through your neighborhood or watching their kid's soccer game. I regret not taking the opportunity to find out what made the people I interviewed for "At Random" fascinating.

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