2018: A journalist’s odyssey

Interview Queen: Anna McNulty

Data on how many interviews cherub Anna McNulty landed.Anna McNulty of New York City got responses from all but five of the 30 people she contacted. Like Richman, McNulty started with the experts and grew her source list from there.

McNulty focused on the rise of consulting businesses that advise students on how to plan their gap years. As she searched for data on gap years, she found the Gap Year Association and contacted every member.

Cherub works on her laptop in the broadcast lab.

Anna McNulty works on her story in the broadcast lab. Photo by Jasmine Javaheri

But McNulty then had to find time for 25 interviews. The one-week deadline did not help.

“I felt like I had no free time,” McNulty said. “My meals were rushed. I went to bed late, and I missed a lot of lectures­ well, parts of them.”

McNulty said it’s important to have backups, but too many interviews can complicate the writing.

“I sat down with Carlin and said, ‘I have 25 pages of interview notes and no idea how to put it down into a five-page article,’” McNulty said.

But McNulty said she didn’t regret a single part of her experience.

“It’s nice to see after a week what you’ve worked on,” McNulty said. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard.”


Left Behind: Andrew Kwa

Andrew Kwa data on how many sources he got for trend story.

Andrew Kwa of Longwood, Florida, contacted 16 people, heard back from four, and was rejected by all but one. The one source Kwa landed had rejected him at first, but agreed to an email interview after some follow-ups from Kwa.

Kwa said he contacted enough people.

“At 16 people it was a stretch to see their relevance or authority,” Kwa said. “I didn’t want to become a glorified street react.”

But that did not detract from the pains of rejections.

Photo illustration of Andrew Kwa emailing sources.

Andrew Kwa emails sources. Photo by Dylan Carlson-Sirvent

“It felt pretty bad,” Kwa said. “All around me there were other cherubs getting a lot of interviews with important people: governors, school board members, other leaders. All week I was twiddling my thumbs because I didn’t have any interview.”

Kwa said he wrote his trend story on how YouTube’s algorithms allow disturbing children’s content and fake news to be published. But he said his lack of connections in the YouTube industry limited his ability to get responses from creators. Kwa also advised future cherubs to think twice about the people or industry they choose to focus their trend story on.

“Target people whose jobs or positions require them to be more in contact with lay people,” Kwa said. “Choose a topic in which there is someone with connections.”


Source Mania: Lily Richman

A graph showing Lily Richman's success in landing sources.










Lily Richman of Los Angeles contacted so many people that she made a Google Sheets to track her sources. She emailed and called 104 people for her trend story about schools for homeless children. Richman set a cherub record for most people contacted, as well as a personal record.

“I covered a story about a VR store that had opened,” Richman said. “I talked to 10 people for that, maybe more, but nowhere near a 104.”

To find her sources, Richman looked at scholarly articles on homelessness and homeless student education and contacted the authors.

“I emailed probably the entire education department from Stanford and Berkeley and the sociology department from UCLA,” Richman said.

Photo illustration of cherub Lily Richman interviewing a source.

Lily Richman interviews a source. Photo by Dylan Carlson-Sirvent

She then would ask the academics she contacted for sources and branched out from there, never leaving an interview without getting the contact information for another potential source.

Contacting 104 people also came with 65 non-responses and 23 rejections. Richman said she did not mind the 88 dead ends. With the 13 people she landed, she said she learned a lot from their perspectives and expertise.

Richman advised to just keep going and contact more people.

“If you’re looking for a source, go for it,” she said. “The first day I contacted 34 people.”

If the chance presents itself again, Richman said she would not hesitate to contact another 104 people.