It’s midnight, and my roommate and I are working ahead of a new day with Next Generation Radio. My cellphone dings, pulling me out of trance. The message is from my story subject. She sends me selfies taken with the kids she coaches on weeknights. From the look of the children in each picture, anyone can tell that Sasha Houston-Brown is loved. Judging from the amount of laughter and attention paid to Sasha during practice, it’s clear that even the adults have a profound respect for someone younger than half the group.
Sasha and I met formally only a day ago. Before then, we spoke briefly only hours after I sent an email to the Twin Cities Native Lacrosse group asking for background on the organization. I was thrilled by the enthusiasm she showed without knowing fully what I was looking for. This is all to say that for any journalist working on a long-form piece or one driven by human interaction: Get close to your subject. Find a way into their personal space and make room for yourself at the dinner table, albeit respectfully.
Don’t take the “dinner table” part seriously. Invite yourself along, and after a while they will forget you’re there. Forming great relationships and being sincere are two things imparted to me from my parents. With a mother in the funeral industry and a father who worked for the police department, I learned early on why building relationships and trust is important. Luckily for my piece, I have a great subject who is willing to share. Sasha’s welcoming nature can be attributed both to her upbringing and her heritage. For more about her heritage, you’ll have to wait for the final product.