I asked Trevor Noah a question and he answered it.
Was it the highlight of my New York trip? I don’t want to say that. I came to watch a team of budding Beacon journalists find new ways to challenge themselves and improve, and to learn how to lead a staff in a way I never have before, so if I say making Trevor Noah (beautiful human, light of my life) laugh at a live taping of his Comedy Central show “The Daily Show” was the highlight of my trip (or possibly my life?) I think I’d be cheating myself out of the other wonderful lessons I learned at this year’s conference.
But I raised my hand very high and he pointed at me and I asked a question. He answered it in front of a live audience and everyone laughed and it made me very very happy, but more importantly it made me proud of myself. I’ve changed in a lot of ways since working for The Beacon, but one of the best outcomes of my time as an editor and reporter has been my growing confidence to raise my hand and ask a question.
It’s the most quintessential aspect of being a journalist. It seems simple enough, but if you’ve struggled with confidence in general like I have, it can be the hardest thing in the world. For me, interviewing has always been pretty easy. There are aspects I’ve had to become aware of and improve upon, but the social part of sitting down alone with someone and asking them questions for a specific purpose has never been a difficult thing for me. It’s when you’re in a crowded room and someone is at the center and you need to ask them a question while everyone else is listening and watching and waiting for their turn. That’s when my heart starts racing and the words just don’t come out. I think of five different questions in my head and I dismiss them all as stupid. I say to myself that everybody in the room already knows the answer and they’ll scoff at me for even asking. But working towards a career in journalism has taught me that if I’m wondering about something, it’s likely that someone else in the room is too, and in many ways, it’s my job to ask the simple, “stupid” questions. So just recently, I’ve started raising my hand. I raise it during talks, panels, sessions. I raised it at my tour of Democracy Now! so many times I could feel the eye rolls I was prompting from the back of the room, but I didn’t care. The miraculous thing is that I got called on, and often times my questions weren’t stupid at all.
Though I have been shut down and scoffed at. At a talk about solutions journalism the night before we headed out for New York, I asked a question that did not receive a real answer, rather a resounding “Just be a journalist, do your job, duh.” It didn’t feel great, but it didn’t stop me from asking questions.
So there I was, sitting in an audience of visitors and New Yorkers in Trevor Noah’s studio, running on four hours of sleep and not nearly enough coffee, but with a burning question in my brain. I was the final question. I asked, he answered, laughter ensued. It was a great time. But I also hope that the staffers behind me, still young and learning, know that the confidence to raise your hand doesn’t come naturally to me, or a lot of the journalists you see in press rooms or events. It comes from time, a lot of mental pep talks and a lot of rejection (in which you discover that the worst thing that can happen when you ask a “stupid” question isn’t really all that bad).
It might be silly, but getting called on by my future husband Trevor Noah is a great way to show the rewards of a maybe not-so-confidant person putting themselves out there. We had a beautiful connection and later I got to watch him drop his pants to show a blue pair of undies. What a beautiful reward.
So ask that stupid question, girl (or boy)! See where it takes you.