This past week a new tone set in amongst the Salt crew. I would characterize this tone as “panic,” while others would say things merely got “real.” Whatever you want to call it, things are ramping up around here. We’ve most certainly exited the practice stage and are full into our projects – still making mistakes, not getting called back and troubleshooting all day every day.
The takeaway from this week for me is two-fold: show up and keep trucking. Trucking means that maybe it will take somewhere between seven and fifteen combined emails and phone calls to get access for your final project, but that’s just the work you’ve got to do to get what you want. As I was complaining that a subject wasn’t calling me back, a fellow Saltie exclaimed, “Well, why don’t you just go there!” This made me realize that sometimes being pushy is a means to an end. No journalist got anywhere by asking once and taking silence for a “no.”
The other part of this week’s takeaway is simple: show up. If you are there when the workers arrive for their 5am shift, you’re going to have a lot more cred with them than if you had showed up at 9:30am chewing on a bagel. People notice this stuff. It’s not about proving how dedicated you are to the project, or enticing anyone to tell more of their story than they otherwise would. You are demonstrating your respect by taking their life seriously, and they, in turn, are more likely to respect you and take your project seriously. Again, this isn’t a means to an end. We aren’t putting in effort to demonstrate our respect in order to “get the story.” It’s about not being a leech. It’s about a human exchange that leaves both parties feeling heard and valued. That’s what we should strive for in every interaction between storyteller and story.