Thursday, June 19, 2008

How do you feel about being quoted?

Check this out and let me know if you have reservations about being photographed and quoted, or if you'd rather be anonymous, online or in Sound Off!

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — We have several names for the process, here in the newsroom, like “walk & talk” or “speak out.”
Back in the day, they were called “roving reporter” features.
Some surprising people have done roving time. Before she was international socialite superstar Jackie O or First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, a then-23-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier was a $42.50-per-week reporter and photographer for the Washington Times-Herald, roaming the city with her clunky camera to capture citizens’ reactions to issues of the day, for her column “Inquiring Camera Girl.”
The cameras have changed, but the basic process remains the same. We choose a topic or question and a likely spot or two to amble and start looking for a diverse group of people willing to comment and let us quote them and take their pictures.
Some days, that can be a difficult process.
It’s hard to predict, but responsiveness can be affected by the blustering Doña Anas, the movement of the planets, the ambience of a particular place and the choice of topics, and some walk & talks are much tougher than others.
Getting people to tell me the best thing about their moms for a Mother’s Day feature was a snap ... an hour on the Downtown Mall and I was done. Virtually every person I asked was delighted to sing their moms’ praises. In fact, when the word got out on the yellow brick road, I was turning people away.
Just a month later, with basically the same question, focusing on dads this time, it took me several hours, two days and three locations to get enough of you to agree to talk on the record and get your photos taken.
Maybe part of it can be attributed to the mood and vibes of the inquiring reporter. I can’t help remembering the first times I roved in the line of duty, in my teens and 20s, when I was known by my colleagues as the “oppression editor” for a semi-great, metropolitan newspaper. My beat was basically whatever was going wrong, and that was quite a lot in the late 1960s and 1970s.
This month, I once again hit a stream of misery and troubles on my rounds. I finally managed to communicate with non-English speakers who suffered through my Spanglish questions and then told me that they were illegals who didn’t want to risk getting their names and photos in the paper.
I encountered about a dozen disgruntled souls who apparently had awkward, painful, abusive or nonexistent father-kid relationships.
There were people with dads at war and kids and adults who reported they had troubled relationships with their dads and stepdads. Some told me they had grown up in one-parent households and their dads were simply not in their lives.
“Las Cruces just isn’t a very dad-friendly town. I guess a lot of dads here aren’t so loyal to their kids,” explained a young man who preferred to remain anonymous, but welcomed me to come back any time to talk — on the record — about his awesome mom.
Maybe, I’ve been thinking, it’s easier to talk about our feelings about our moms because most moms find it easier than most dads do, to tell us how they feel about us.
Or maybe we have more complicated relationships with our dads, or more complicated dads.
I persisted and found some of you who thought of your dads as heroes who took care of their kids and families in very difficult circumstances, dads who were funny, creative, playful and compassionate.
Thanks to all of you who are willing to take a moment out of your day to talk with us, share your stories and sometimes even let us shoot your picture when it’s 102 degrees in the shade and you think you’re having a bad hair day. (You’re not — you look terrific!)
In an era when election polls and marketing surveys seem to have a burgeoning margin of error, I can’t help reflecting on the things I’ve learned in decades as a roving reporter.
And I’ve been wondering lately, if the people who would rather not go on the record have as much to tell us as those who will. Maybe even more. And maybe things we really need to hear right now.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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