When the source picks up the phone, she has a southern twang that’s so intense I’m caught slightly off guard. Nevertheless, I introduce myself.
“Hi there,” I start. “My name’s Lauren Balser, and I’m a reporter with Northwe—”
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” the Arkansan interrupts. “Do you know that it is summer vacation? Summer vacation. I am off work for the next few weeks.” There’s a pause while I compose myself.
“Oh, yes, I understand,” I continue after a beat. “I was just hoping that I could—”
“Good day.” The line goes dead. I sit for a second before brushing it off calling my next source.
She was the worst “interview” I had throughout my entire cherubs experience. Sure, one woman spoke about light bulbs for nearly half an hour uninterrupted, but she was still helpful. Another source told me my method of transcribing our conversation was incorrect, but she was still helpful.
Ms. Summer Vacation was not.
I wrote my trend story on the effects of the decreasing amount of special education teachers. Naturally, I needed to talk to a wide variety of people.
Had she been a source I contacted earlier in my cherubs experience, I would not have made as many calls as I made for my trend story. But she was call 23, so I was already on a roll.
I called around 130 people (and counting), but I stopped keeping exact track after 100.
Before cherubs, interviews with strangers required a process. I had to spend several minutes getting into the right headspace and stop myself from freaking out. I still like to be in the right headspace, but if a source calls me, I’m ready to go right then and there.
I don’t think my instructor meant for me to call 130-and-counting people, but cherubs gave me the confidence to do that in the first place.
Once sources got back to me, I had a mini-network of teachers, administrators, professors and an attorney who would answer my calls at any time. They put me in contact with other teachers, administrators, professors and attorneys.
One of the teachers I interviewed had an hour-long conversation with me. She cried at the end and I almost did, too.
My sources were so passionate about special education that they wrote books and gave presentations on the topic. They took the time to talk to me because they wanted this issue to be addressed.
They inspired me to make a difference one call at a time.