"Writing Powerful Narratives," which was held at the Reynolds Journalism Institute March 4, 2013, featured several speakers throughout the day who talked about reporting and writing long-form nonfiction. One of the speakers was Missouri School of Journalism alumnus Robert Sanchez, a staff writer for 5280 Magazine in Denver.

Robert SanchezRobert Sanchez, senior staff writer for 5280 Magazine in Denver, shared his tactics on how to gain access to sources during the "Writing Powerful Narratives" workshop. His experience suggests that the way a journalist approaches and interacts with a source makes a big difference. His key takeaways:

  1. Be truthful. Your interview subject will appreciate your honesty and most of the time will understand that what you have to do as a journalist is to tell the truth.
  2. Do your homework. Before you conduct an interview, read previous clips about the subject and talk to people who know that person. Ask questions that can connect you with your subject and bring you closer to them.
  3. Be there on time. If they can’t trust you about showing up on time, how can they trust you enough to write an article about them?
  4. Shut up and listen. Stop worrying about what question to ask next and instead listen for deeper meaning in the conversation.
  5. You’re not there to judge. By not judging during interviews, you liberate yourself to ask how and why behind a person’s actions.
  6. Be a real person. Hang out with your sources and share with them about yourself. Not every question has to be related to your story.
  7. Think outside the box. There might be ways to feature someone if you choose a different perspective, such as getting in the water with a swimmer rather than watching her by the pool.
  8. Walk away early. Don’t force it if you realize the sources you interview do not fit your story. They wouldn’t be offended if you thank them for their time and explain your case sincerely.


"Writing Powerful Narratives," was sponsored by Meredith Corporation, Missouri School of Journalism's Magazine Faculty and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The workshop was coordinated by John Fennell, an associate professor and a Meredith Chair in service journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Miranda Zhang  
Graduate assistant


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