For most students, the trend story is the longest and hardest assignment of the program. In order to write an in-depth article in one week, students often have to interview a dozen or more people, from professors to teens.
Some cherubs pull all-nighters. Others skip meals. Many are ignored or rejected by a number of sources before finding success.
Analysis of the 2017 cherub survey data revealed that three people had particularly unique experiences.
rejected or ignored interview request
Marilyn Zhang: Most rejected or ignored requests
Zhang’s interview requests
Marilyn Zhang of Shanghai, emailed 60 people before her first source agreed to an interview on Friday, two days before the deadline.
Her story focused on the increasing number of young African-American hip-hop dancers posting videos online. Zhang said she tried to contact as many experts as she could and asked them to recommend other sources.
“I wasn’t that sad because I basically spammed them through the emails,” Zhang said. “So I didn’t have high hopes or expectations. But I did get a little bit depressed when someone I wanted to talk to rejected me.”
Bryan Edwards: Most successful
Edwards’s interview requests
Bryan Edwards of Parkland, Florida, contacted eight sources and was never rejected.
He wrote his story on the increasing number of NFL teams requiring rookies to attend training camps earlier than veteran players. Since his father is a defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, he said it was simple for him to connect with athletes like Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. He just texted his sources to schedule interviews.
“It was a lot better than being rejected,” Edwards said. “I was able to find people that I knew would talk to me. I had a lot of connections through my dad, so I already knew the people I was going to talk to. It was a lot easier than having to hunt down a lot of different sources.”
Scarlet Li: Longest interview
Li’s interview requests
Scarlet Li’s longest interview was a two-hour phone call — 90 minutes longer than the average cherub’s record length.
She used WeChat, the Chinese messaging app, to get names of potential sources and to schedule and conduct interviews.
Because of the 13-hour time difference between the United States and China, her home country, Li, who is from Beijing, contacted her sources while her fellow cherubs were asleep.
She called people through the app to avoid international calling fees. To ask follow-up questions, she used WeChat’s audio clip feature to send and receive short voice messages.
“It was difficult,” Li said. “The tone people use on WeChat is different from what they use on the phone. The teenagers are a little bit more formal than how they interact daily.”
Li had eight successful interviews and was rejected or ignored 24 times.