Friday, November 06, 2009

Not My Finest Moment But Don't Get Me Started

In hindsight, perhaps meeting an idealistic, starry-eyed first-year journalism student whilst hungover is not a good idea. The truth is, however, that the entire media industry is feeling this headache, so what's the diff?

This morning, I had a quick coffee interview with a student for her school assignment. Her dad works with my mom, and Mom, ever-protective, kind of tried to "forget" that her colleague had asked for my contact info on his daughter's behalf. I appreciate it, Mom (she would be a stonewall publicist).

Anyway, I find it strange that the parental connection had to be used since I am all over the internetz. No harm in a quick Google and then Tweeting me, right?

I waved off Mom's human security shield because I always like being accessible to students for assignments, although I have been burned in the past (overzealous, friendly types - if I give you some time for an interview, it does not mean we are BFFs - don't make me Gmail-block you!).

I won't mention how unprofessional the email interview request was - oops, I guess I just did. But it did give me pause. The stuff I do perhaps makes me seem very personable and suggests intimacy. I think I am, in normal contexts, quite open. But shouldn't an interview request, especially one from an aspiring journalist, be professional? Should you be "soooo" excited? Am I being harsh? Would I have written the same things at that age?

Anyway, the meeting was an interesting exercise. She asked me the question I am beginning to think I will be asked for THE REST OF MY LIFE: "Why did you leave your VJ job?" This question gets me. "Why?" "Did?" "You?" "Leave?"

Why does anyone leave a job? That question puts me in a position of bursting bubbles. Obviously, I left because I wanted to leave. The underpinning to this question is the undying belief that being a VJ must be the most amazing and fun experience any human could possibly aspire to. So. When you ask me, "Why did you leave?" you are asking me to burst your bubble. I don't like doing that. It makes me feel like a negative rant on a broken record or a big meanie who goes around with a pin, bursting balloons that kids are hanging on to and really, really believe in.

For the record, I answered truthfully and said that it was time to move on and that I had nothing left to learn in the position. Being young (and I still am!) I refuse to stagnate. But I swear to God (and more on God later) she continued to ask me, incredulously, how and why I could possibly leave such a plum job. She continued to return to the question, in many different ways, including, "Do you regret leaving?" and "Was it your choice to leave?"

For someone who requested an interview with me saying that she was interested in my work as a volunteer with an NGO, she sure did gloss over that stuff to keep asking me about **insert music station**. Sometimes I seriously feel that I am swinging a dead carcass around my neck, the carcass of my 20s, and I will carry this thing around forever. I know I'm only a few years out, but I am so tired of talking about something that is old history. In the past four, frenetic, freelance years, I have done so many different things - I have had such a wide array of experiences. I brought some of them up (radio doc in Mali! being a TV producer!) and it was like she was just waiting for me to stop talking so she could keep asking me about what I left 4 years ago. She also, in no way, has any clue what my main gig is right now, I can tell, because she never mentioned it.

Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh on her. Or maybe I'll reserve judgment for you. This was our first exchange:

Me: So, is this an assignment to interview a media professional?
Her: No. We can interview anyone but I'm sure the celebrity factor will, you know, sway my professor. We could have interviewed anyone, even a criminal.

Her obsession with celebrity (which came out in several questions) is not unique to her. But it was still a bit alarming. Upon being asked for about, oh, the fifth time, about how I could possibly leave such a celeb-awesome-osity job:

Me: The job might look really glamorous from the outside but in the end, glamour is a lie.
Her: Wow. "Glamour is a lie." That is so deep. [Pause]. Are you religious? Because you sound...

[I couldn't conceal my horror here - I'll admit I started doing some eyebrow aerobics here].

...soulful. Are you...[hesitating now]...religious?

Me: No.

I don't want to be super-negative to someone who is going into media, which I stalwartly do not believe is dead or dying (only the traditional stuff is, and while the field is fallow, something great will emerge).

HOWEVER, I probably should have given her some advice on how to be a good interviewer, which I did not. Instead, I just judged and probably let my face betray me.

1. Research.
2. Don't get your dad to call my mom to get the interview. Just look me up yourself.
3. Bring a recording device or take notes faster. I can see that you're not writing down what I say.
4. Don't tell me what I think, i.e. "I know that at ***, a VJ job is the best job you can have." Really? How do you know that?
5. Don't ask me about the other "famous" people I worked with, especially when there's one on the current cover of one of the country's most widely-available magazines, in a cover story that *I* wrote. You could have just read that. This goes back to number 1 rule.
6. Don't tell me I sound religious.
7. When I've answered a question, move on. Sometimes that means a good follow-up question, but it always means you must listen. Listen and process. I know that it's incomprehensible to you that I would leave YOUR dream job, but the more you ask me to elaborate by asking the same question over and over, increasingly imbued with your own pre-conceived notions, the more I'll get pissed. Remember, your interview subject...may be be hungover.

Sigh. I know that she is just your average wannabe VJ and that I bring a shoulder-chip or two to the table. Still, I am constantly surprised at how many people think "fame" equals "happiness." It doesn't! It can actually equal unhappiness. Wrap your mind around that, kids.

I don't want to be a burster of bubbles, but if you request an interview with me to needle me about how I could possibly leave a job as a VJ, you're asking for it.

1. More patience.
2. Give a useful piece of career advice in person, rather than blogging it later.
3. Remember that while journalism jobs disappear faster than you can say, "But I've paid $20 000 in tuition!" journalism schools just continue to enroll more and more incoming students. At some point (graduation, maybe?), that's gonna hurt. So maybe I don't need to be the harbinger of reality. Life has a way of parsing it out in due time, anyway. Do I really need to mention that lots of journalism students end up in PR? Answer: probably not.


Blogger Andrea said...


(but true)

11:28 PM  

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