Once digging, everyone has a story. Good journalists never give up finding a better central character in their stories. However, to me, I feel the biggest challenge is not finding an idea, not shooting visuals, not writing scripts, but getting access to the strongest character.
Recently I watched a Pulitzer story entitled “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides.” This masterpiece features the young girls who are forced into marriage. They are vulnerable and helpless. They suffer from abuse, but they have to endure. The photographer, Stephanie Sinclair, spent over eight years in India, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nepal and Ethiopia, and got extremely compelling photos to tell this unique story to the world.
For fantastic stories like this, the biggest challenge is access to certain sources. The topic is so sensitive, and the local conservative culture makes it even harder. As journalists, we need to approach them as a friend. We need patience, and make ourselves trustable. We want to have audiences see their struggles, and hear their voices, which is a basic function of journalism.
NEVER GIVE UP COMMUNICATING. People may be afraid to expose their own life to the public, or they may be afraid that others would talk about them. In these cases, journalists sometimes act the same role as negotiators, because we persuade people to participate in our stories. We need to make people understand how important they are in order to tell a better story and get better visuals. It’s a profession that most people don’t understand, so we need to communicate and explain.
KNOW THE SUBJECTS. Another important thing to get full accessibility is to know the subjects. Their rejection always goes with invisible difficulties or controversies behind that. We need to understand them, and find a best approach that benefit both sides. This is why journalism sometimes is all about problem solving. Once you get full accessibility, the story will definitely go deeper and deeper.