Removing the mask

As I continue interviews for District 47 profile stories, I’ve found the most difficult obstacle is to get the candidate to talk to you as more of a friend than a politician. That might not be the right characterization, but what I mean is getting the candidate to open up to me. I don’t want comments full of buzz words like “great community” and “education/economy/healthcare.” Those terms are useful, but I can get them from just about any speech they make.

So here’s the question: How do you get a candidate to essentially tell you about who he is as an individual instead of a politician? In the couple of interviews I’ve completed, I tried the therapist approach. I tried to find common ground and share some of my personal stories with the candidate. This worked…sort of.

I have plenty of information from the candidates, but the most valuable information is going to come from other people who know the candidates. This is how it works with many profile pieces. The other person will give me a bit of an outsiders perspective, which is what I, as a journalist, am anyways — an outsider looking in.

The next challenge in these profile pieces is to figure out how to not make it like an advertisement for the candidate. People, and especially me, want to say good things about people. So if I write a profile piece talking about positive aspects of the candidate (because that’s pretty much what they like to talk about), does that make it like a campaign ad? These are just a few things on my mind as I work through the candidate profiles.

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