In 2011, I was in West Timor interviewing former Timor-Leste refugees for a theatre show.
In a lot of the interviews, the talk turned to their poor living conditions.
These people struggled to find work in West Timor and a lot of them wanted to return to Timor-Leste, where they were born, because they’d heard there were more opportunities there.
The first interview was dominated with their bad living conditions.
I was sitting there listening, but what I was seeing didn’t match up with what I was hearing.
What I was seeing:
A brand new generator outside the person’s shack.
Pushbikes for the children.
Children dressed in new clothing (no they hadn’t dressed up for us because it was a spontaneous interview)
What I was hearing:
"Life's so bad, we've got nothing!"
I wanted to ask, “If things are so bad here, how can you possibly afford a generator?”
But I couldn’t.
I didn’t want to offend them.
I realised after that experience that I could NEVER be a journalist because I was too afraid to ask the hard questions.
That was until yesterday.
Yesterday I had to interview the Deputy Lord Mayor at a fountain opening.
Cue the water spurts.
The fountain was due to open in February, six months ago.
I had to ask him what had caused the six month delay.
So the whole time throughout the interview I'm thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to have to ask that mean question soon”.
And then he pauses, and I know that now is the time to ask the question.
So I do and he laughs!
And he answers the question honestly and then twists it positively, to say that the delay was caused because they needed to make sure they had consulted the original designers before they started.
The question wasn’t hard at all, in fact, it was easy for him to answer.
This surprised me.
Of course it makes sense now.
He’s used to answering the hard questions. He expected me to ask him that question. He’d already thought of an answer. He’s a professional, he’s used to these type of questions.
While this is not the case for the people I interviewed in West Timor because they aren’t used to dealing with media on a daily basis like this guy.
But from now on in, I’m never going to afraid of asking the hard questions especially of the media pros.
Because it is just a fountain after all.