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What Do You Stand For? September 27, 2012

September 27, 2012

A lot of things are out of my control when I’m reporting here. I can’t control interviewees tendency to be late, cancel meetings at the last-minute, fail to deliver what they promised, or not contradict themselves when they try to tell me what they think I want to hear while still stating their own opinion.

But once I get that person sitting in that chair or desk across from me, translator on hand if needed, I like to think I finally have some control. I’ve prepared my questions, I’ve done my best to anticipate what they might say and I’m ready to steer the conversation in a way that I can get the information that I need. Every interview has the potential to unearth something unexpected, but generally, this is the process.

Yesterday was no different than most of my days here. My morning started later than I expected and my 10 o’clock interview didn’t commence until after 1 p.m. This is “adi”, normal. It’s all part of the waiting game which I participate in daily. No surprises. What I didn’t expect though was a pre-interview – of me.

The group’s appointed leader and I sat across from each other in worn, black leather armchairs before the start of the meeting. Another member perched on the leader’s armrest. Assuming that I was going to ask the woman a few questions, I opened a word document on my Mac, but before I could say anything, she asked me, through my translator, the spelling of my name. My age. My previous experience reporting on refugees in Jordan. My work experience. Clips. I quickly realized that though I was in the same room as where the gathering was being held, I was to be vetted before I would be allowed to listen in.

Choose a side.

Then it got more personal.

“What do you think about the Syrian revolution?”

“Whose side are you on?”

“Why do you want to report this story?”

“Who are you trying to reach with this story?”

All perfectly valid questions that I have asked myself countless times. I did my best to answer diplomatically. But that wasn’t what they wanted. They asked for an answer as friend-to-friend, not journalist-to-source. So finally, skipping the diplomacy, I told them that I’ve seen the human cost of the war in Syria through countless families who have had their lives temporarily or near-permanently destroyed. And I wanted to tell their stories with context.

They smiled. I had passed the test.

To have the tables turned on me was humbling. It’s easy to forget how it feels when someone is questioning you about your motives and your beliefs, asking you about topics that may have no easy answer. Though at first I took slight umbrage at the gall of these women to ask so many questions before allowing me to do the same, I’m grateful for it. Journalists should be challenged as much as they challenge others to explain their own 5 W’s, as they require of their subjects.

What do you stand for?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 27, 2012 12:56 pm

    I am involved with http://www.skymemorialfoundation.org and curry without worry – Kathmandu. People ask me why we are feeding the beggars and poor ones? working so hard in the remote villages..some ask what is your motive for doing it. well sometime it is really difficult to answer in the best way that may satisfy them and sometime it just annoys you. so my answer to them is “there are many hungry ones out there and your little can feed them” we feel happy to see the smiling faces of the village children for whom we provide basic needs such as school bags, slippers, stationery etc… or simply help send send teachers there…

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