The Rapidian

Virginia is for lovers, tire swings are for dreamers, reporting is for the curious

You ask whatever comes to mind, you observe how people express themselves through word choice, inflection, movement, color... Everything becomes language.
My stepdad gossips with his cousin about if the Great Honolulu Chinatown fire of 1900 began at their grandfather's building.

My stepdad gossips with his cousin about if the Great Honolulu Chinatown fire of 1900 began at their grandfather's building. /Denise Cheng

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From The Rapidian staff

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Reporting. It's for the curious.

"I think that it's very easy to go about everyday life, to go from place to place, having the same conversations, getting very comfortable in what you think you know," said Lisa Fairman, a RadioLab listener.

I fell in love with journalism knowing that by pursuing this practice, I'd always be expanding my horizons. An assignment could draw from any number of fields, and each article—researched, interviewed and well-crafted—is like a mini essay, a mental expedition into a borrowed world.

I've been paying more attention lately to how people tell stories. Observation is one of those invaluable tools for a reporter, and it spills into all other parts of life. You ask whatever comes to mind, you observe how people express themselves through word choice, inflection, movement, color... Everything becomes language.

Have you ever noticed how people talk when they're telling a story? Some people are always chill, but ask them to recount an incident and immediately they impersonate, catapulting in pitch or grating their voices against the bottom of their ranges. Some people's eyes grow to the size of saucers and their chatter ramps up. Others scrabble their hands in the air even though normally, they are so controlled in their movement. And for storytellers who often talk with their hands, their voices gain melody, flying up and down several octaves.

I've also been editing Catalyst Radio for over a year now. It airs at noon on Fridays on WYCE 88.1 FM, and we interview guests who've initiated the coolest grassroots projects and nonprofits you want to know about. It's been quite the lesson in mental pauses. First, I've encountered very few "likes" in West Michigan so far. The "ums" are hard to edit out, sliding into whatever soft consonant that follows. "Y'knows" are very sneaky—blink and you'll miss them. "Uhs" provide the cleanest audio break, and easier yet are those who take a deep breath for their mental pauses. Fascinating that the "breathers" pick the tune right back up, neither crescendoing nor diminishing from the incomplete sentence before their break.

To me, journalism is a chance to try on other people's perspectives. In a way, it's a study of other studies in that it brings together, then summarizes, issues and topics that are waiting to meet. But keep practicing and it becomes clear that if journalism can be considered a study in and of itself, it's a study of human communication.

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