No hidden goals in seeking quotes

“Hello! Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions? I am a writer for The Varsity News.”

“Umm… No, thanks.”

Ah, the very answer no reporter ever wants to hear: “no.”

More often than not, I find myself stuck in a situation where I need to get interviews in order to finish my article, and I just can’t find anyone who will allow me to interview them.

Sure, sometimes my story topics are controversial, or maybe even a little far-fetched, but I know that people have an opinion about them.

So why is it that more than half of the people (students, professors, administrators) on campus that I ask to interview for The VN politely decline?

From what I understand, there seems to be some stigma that stereotypes not only the writers of The VN but most reporters and news media in general.

People seem to believe that we are sneaky and only out to seek and expose negativity.

In my experience, this has rarely been the case.

Never would I, or any of the reporters I know, intentionally try to set someone up to say something negative about themselves, their friends, beliefs, etc.

Reporters are nearly always seeking one of two things: one, the truth and two, personal opinion.

When I ask my peers how they feel about the fountain on campus, for example, I expect them to give me their honest opinion. 

I personally think it’s a beautiful scene on campus, probably my favorite place to just relax.

But if some other student thinks it was designed poorly or could be painted a different color or should be bigger or have more water jets around it, I want to hear about the reasoning behind those thoughts, too.

There is really no reason to deny my reporting of that information. It’s simply an opinion.

By no means would I try to throw them under the bus because they have an interesting opinion about the fountain.

Same goes for faculty and staff.

If I ask to interview a professor about the subject they teach, why in the world would they say no?

Aren’t they supposed to be experts on this stuff? Don’t they teach specifically because they have a passion and want to broaden the audience on the subject that they care so deeply about?

If I ask a custodian how his day is going, and it’s going great, I want him to tell me that it’s going great. But if he dropped his wallet, got stung by a bee and locked his keys in his car, I want him to tell me that, too.

The bottom line is: We just want to talk to you.

We want to get student opinions. We want to know what inspires that professor to have taught here for 35 years. We want to know if that custodian ever found his wallet.

I have always introduced myself as a reporter so people should know that once they agree to talk to a reporter, what they say can and likely will be used in the story. But that is not a bad thing.

Everyone should feel free to speak their mind, and if those thoughts are reported by me, I shouldn’t have to deal with any backlash.

We are a university that preaches the importance of diversity and acceptance of others, but I constantly deal with people feeling the need to keep their opinions undisclosed, likely because of the fear of judgment. 

The questions we reporters ask are not the problem, and neither are the responses we’re given. 

The responses are not always going to be positive because not everything in life is. 

People have bad days, unfortunate things happen and that is just the way it is.

But this isn’t Instagram, and we don’t only want to see and hear about your happiest and most joyful moments; we want to hear about it all.

We, of course, want you to be comfortable with what we write. But if you say it, it’s fair game for us to report.

We aren’t going to judge you, and you shouldn’t feel like you can’t speak your opinion in fear of judgment.

We aren’t out to get you, and we aren’t trying to make you look bad.

We just want to talk to you, and show all the raw truths and opinions that would otherwise go unknown.


Daniel is VN news editor