My book has been out for a few months now and I’ve had several chances to experience playing the media subject instead of the interviewer. I’ve learned a lot from it. Still, each time I do an interview and then read the article, I brace myself to see what the reporter got wrong — or more often, chose to emphasize out of all the words we exchanged. What’s more, it’s always fascinating to see a story that’s told when you know — from being there — that there was much more to the story.
Last week I traveled to Philadelphia for a book event at a very unusual book club. The host, Amy, selects the books and often she invites the authors to appear for a discussion, either by phone or in person. For my book, I offered to bring in a few of the local book subjects since I had three inspiring slashes who lived nearby. Amy agreed and allowed me to lead a panel discussion about the book with Jamie Donegan – theater producer/landscape designer, Debbie Epstein Henry – lawyer/work-life expert/mother, and Joe Van Blunk — longshoreman/documentary filmmaker/dad.
Debbie Henry invited Jan Von Bergen, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and we had no idea whether she’d find the idea interesting enough to cover. Thankfully, she did. She showed up, along with a photographer, and wrote a vivid account of the evening.
The Phenomenon of Slash Careers
If you were there, you’d know that Jane, the reporter, rather kindly left out some of the events details. Moments after finishing the panel discussion and Q&A, I started feeling light-headed and queasy. I thought I was going to pass out (something I have a tendency to do) and quickly excused myself to the powder room. You don’t need to know the rest, but it wasn’t pretty. After that episode, I’m told I emerged looking fairly “peaked.” And just about then, Jane came at me with some of her most thoughtful, challenging questions. “Isn’t slashing really a positive spin on the fact that we have a health insurance crisis and people are taking many jobs to get by?” I was in no shape to answer Jane’s smart questions and I pretty much lied down on the sofa while she talked to Joe, the longshoreman, whom she had wanted to meet for years. She could tell from my white face that I wasn’t just evading.
I knew she had a few days to file the story so I called her when I got back to New York the next day and told her I’d be happy to talk further. Thankfully, she listened.