When I interviewed reporters to work at The Appalachian, they all tried to sell me on one thing: How extroverted they were.
There was very little, “I’m a great writer/videographer/photographer/data journalist.” Almost never any, “I have a great grasp on [x] subject I’ll be covering.” It was all, “I’m a people person. I love to talk to people.”
This makes sense.
Journalism, good journalism, is largely about talking to other human beings. Blogging and expert interviews and social-media crowdsourcing are all well and good and necessary, but one of the few things that still separates working journalists from the masses is the time, willingness and motivation to make 18 phone calls in a row, or show up in the neighborhood where someone was murdered and start knocking on doors, or dive into a crowd to grab elbows and ask questions.
I do all those things, and although (I think) I’m good at hiding it, I’m very, very shy.
I’m an introvert, and I’m a journalist.
I’m still terrified every single time I pick up the phone, every time I raise my fist to knock on a door, every time I grab an elbow.
But I do it anyway because, if I hadn’t been able to express better on paper than I can out loud, my story would have been trapped under layers of awkward personality and stammered words. I do it because I know everyone has a story, and all of them deserve telling, and not everyone is capable of expressing their own story.
Introverts make wonderful journalists, not in spite but because of our nature. Journalism isn’t about talking; it’s about listening — and we’ve spent our lives listening. We can pick up on little details. We can tell when something’s off. And people will open up to us — often because we’re just listening to what they have to say, not planning our next question.
We might be scared every time we dive into the fray.
But you don’t have to do it without being scared. You just have to do it.