SATIRE: Columnists turned people-fishers in hopes of catching interviews

Sometimes it takes messaging friends of friends or hiding along Terrell Mall in bush costume, but it is worth it for great column



Whether it requires sending a dozen emails or standing in front of the CUB with a sign to attract interviewees, columnists will do whatever it takes to get interviews.


I love my job because I love to write. There are, however, some aspects of it that do not exactly play nice with my other preferences. I loathe hunting for interviews.

You reach out and then you wait, while reaching out to more people in case someone is too busy — or otherwise unwilling — or simply ignores you. It is fraught with rejection. Journalists might have better luck hunting for Sasquatch than willing interviewees.

We try a lot of things to find people. Setting out traps, like pizza or candies under a propped-up laundry basket. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. 

Polly C. Houldur, sophomore creative writing major, said she was part of her high school’s newspaper club and always found interviews to be the worst part.

“I have had people say they would love to interview, but I email them asking about what time would work for them, and then radio silence hits. They never get back to me,” Houldur said.

Houldur said she can only ask certain people so many times before they have breached the appropriate level of closeness. I know what she means — I know too much about you now, I would feel obligated to say hello to you in the grocery store if I saw you.

“Taking to the streets with a megaphone or a boombox screaming into the night does not help us either. Somehow, people still ignore us,” Houlder said. 

It is possible we will need to head out into the streets with the vengeful bitterness of the “I Didn’t Get No Sleep ‘Cause of Y’all” lady — Tanisha Thomas — and make people want to interview with us journalists, if only to shut us up. 

Unless, of course, people want to play nice and do this the easy way. Interviews do not have to take a long time, but no, everyone is oh so busy all the time. Ten minutes of interviewing must feel like being stuck in standstill traffic.

Even when I want to tear out my hair from having too much to do, I probably spend more than ten minutes sitting at my desk in a stupor, so it really should be a reasonable ask. Or maybe everyone is just magically busy whenever I need interviews.

“Finding people to interview usually takes me more time than conducting the interviews and writing the pieces combined,” Houldur said. “You would think people would want to share their opinions, especially about lighthearted topics. What, did your horoscope say no interviews this week?”

Helen Hywater, senior journalism major, said she has hunted for interviews countless times before and that eventually, you get used to approaching strangers on the street to try and get a source — any source — if the topic permits.

Disciplinary-specific topics or ones regarding specific events may render random passersby ineligible to provide input, but as Hywater said, “a journalist will do what they must.”

If dressing up in a Christmas tree costume and dancing around outside the Compton Union Building with a sign will get people to do interviews with me, I might consider it. Not really though, I have my limits.

Hywater said the first time she wandered Terrell Mall looking for strangers to interview, she brought a heavy-duty net with her and wore a ghillie suit.

“I was unsure about my people catching skills, and the net was kind of small. So, I tried to look for people who were walking alone first. I worked my way up to confronting groups,” Hywater said.

It is daunting to approach people. You never know what they will say, and sometimes it is hard to think of how to introduce yourself. So, Hywater hid and let them approach her. Hywater’s approach was inspired by the San Francisco bushman and the British guy who snuck through his neighborhood dressed as a bush.

She said she felt kind of predatory, seeking out unsuspecting passerby to ask for interviews, but that the catch and release method remains more reliable than polite asking. Just like fishing, apparently. Fish do not bite just because you ask them to, though it would be nice if they did.

“It is a little weird to wander around in one spot or sit and watch, waiting for someone. And then sometimes I see someone, and while mustering up the courage to make my move, I wonder if maybe I was staring at them or something, or if anyone thinks I’m being a creep,” she said.

If someone tried to catch me in a net and then asked me for an interview, I would probably be hostile, so as much as Hywater’s method might fix the problem, trying it sounds like an arrest waiting to happen. 

It stinks! I always feel like I am not asking much of people, so it is frustrating when no one wants to do interviews, but at the same time, it can be uncomfortable to be approached by a stranger and asked for a chat.

I still need to find a better way to get people to talk to me, though. Maybe I will try a sign, just without the dancing or the tree costume.