Saturday, April 14, 2012

What I learned: Erin McCracken on difficult conversations

Third take on what our staffers learned from pieces they worked on that recently won Keystone Awards. Erin McCracken won first place in the feature story category for Fighting to conceive, about an obese couple trying to have a child. From Erin:

I learned to navigate uncomfortable conversations. I had to ask the Flickingers about their weight, menstrual cycles, sexual history, etc. At times, they were hesitant to answer. But at our first meeting, we agreed on why the story mattered: It might help the Flickingers find a solution and/or help others with similar struggles. When things got dicey, I reminded them about that goal to shift their focus from what they were sharing to why they were sharing it. 
Great advice to anyone who struggles -- and if you're in this business, you inevitably will -- to help people feel  comfortable, or at least willing, to share the kind of sensitive, personal information that resonates with readers. Anyone else have any success stories like Erin's?