Published March 7, 2013
Our daughter, Miriam, recently called our home on a Saturday afternoon. She had been to the University of Georgia to see our granddaughter, who is a freshman at UGA. I answered the phone.
Miriam was returning to her home in Douglasville and driving through Atlanta traffic. Her question to me was, “Do you have to possess some kind of special permission to drive on the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane or can you drive on it if there are two people in the car?”
I replied, “You must possess a Peach Pass to drive on the HOV lane.”
Miriam responded to my answer to her question and mentioned that Harris, her son and our grandson, had arrived in Orlando. Harris, who plays a trombone in the Alexander High School band, was traveling with his band to Disney World where they were scheduled to perform during their school’s Winter Break.
Miriam stated, “Harris just called and said the highway patrol had stopped the bus he was on and performed a random drug check with police dogs that ‘sniffed’ out their luggage.”
When we had concluded our brief phone conversation my dear wife, Martha Jean, asked, “What did Miriam say?”
I gave my typical answer, “Nothing in particular.” I, being an insensitive male, often give that sort of answer. When I come home from the GBC Missions and Ministry Center at the end of the day, Martha Jean will typically ask, “What happened at your office today?”
My patented answer is: “Not much.”
One day she responded by saying, “I don’t know how you manage to keep your job if your account of what happens there each day is accurate.” (For those of you on my Board of Directors I actually have a more definitive answer.)
In response to Martha Jean’s question on that Saturday afternoon I did manage to add, “She did say that Harris’ bus was stopped by the highway patrol on the way to Orlando.”
Then she proceeded to ask …
Why did they stop the bus?
Was the driver speeding?
Was the driver suspected of some felony or misdemeanor?
Were the students in danger?
Did they conduct a search?
If so, why did they search the bus?
How many patrolmen were there to search the bus? Where was the bus stopped?
What were the students doing while the bus was being searched?
Did they have those “drug dogs” sniffing for drugs?
If so, how many dogs did they have?
What kind of dogs did they have?
Did the search cause Harris any anxiety?
Did they find any drugs?
How long were they stopped?
Did the students have to get off the bus?
Why did they select the bus Harris was on?
How many adult chaperones did they have on the bus?
Have they arrived in Orlando yet?
Where did they stop to eat lunch?
Did Harris have enough spending money?
Then there was another barrage of questions about Miriam’s trip to Athens to see Hayley.
I explained to Martha Jean that the conversation lasted less than a minute and I didn’t get the information she was inquiring about. It was then that I concluded she would be a far better reporter than me, because she knows how to ask questions.
When I was a pastor I would frequently come home after having visited a new mother with her baby in the hospital and Martha Jean would ask me, “Tell me all about the baby.”
My typical response was, “Well, it was a really nice baby.’
She would then ask …
Was it a boy or girl?
How long was the mother in labor?
Did she have an epidural?
How far were her contractions apart before she decided to go to the hospital?
How much did the baby weigh?
How long was the baby?
Did it have any hair?
How much hair did the baby have?
What color was the baby’s hair?
Who did the baby look like?
What is the baby’s name?
Are they going to call the baby by the first name or the middle name?
Did you take any pictures of the baby?
I generally had less information about the baby than Hillary Clinton had about the assault on the United States Embassy in Benghazi.
When I became the editor of The Christian Index I started reading books and articles on writing and journalism. I wouldn’t have had to read all that material if I had just paid more attention to Martha Jean and her incredible ability to ask personal, pertinent, and penetrating questions.
One article I read stated, “The interviewing process can be quite challenging, but the journalist must remember that there is, for the most part, only one shot to get the story and when they are there speaking to the interviewee in person, they must be on the ball.”
The following statement haunts me.
“There are few things that indicate amateur status more blatantly in the world of journalism than a reporter who runs out of things to say before the interviewee does.”
So, I think my wife would be a great interviewer or reporter. But then E.J. Dionne, writing in The Washington Post, thinks the Catholics should consider a nun to be the next Pope. So, I hope to keep my job for a while longer.
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