There is an aspect of being a reporter that I had not realized COVID-19 had taken away. And probably, it is one of my favorite parts of the job — talking to people.
It really dawned on me on Election Day just how much I missed it, as well as the fact that it had been so reduced to begin with.
Sure, I have still been talking to people, but not as many, not as frequently and not for as great a length.
For our Election Day coverage, I decided to focus my efforts on Rock Hall. We only had three polling places to go to this year in Kent County, so I was able to pick one and spend more time there.
And when I walked in, I immediately saw someone I knew working the polls. I checked in with the election judge to get the numbers and then went over and had a nice chat.
At the end of our conversation, I let him know I would be back in the evening to check on the closing numbers. And sure enough, he was still there and we talked some more.
Election Day is stressful for reporters, but both times I walked out of the Rock Hall firehouse with a smile on my face for having gotten to pass some time in nice conversation.
Over the weekend, I received a call from a young man who had made a special find. I’ve received calls like this before and they always turn into some of my favorite stories.
We agreed on a day and time for an interview. He showed me what he found as well as some other items he has collected over the years. I enjoyed talking with him, hearing his stories.
It is those interactions that I have been missing.
Believe it or not, I have some of the best conversations at local government meetings. I enjoy just taking some time out to exchange pleasantries, to chat for a few minutes, to share a fun anecdote.
But government meetings are virtual now. We are tuning into a livestream or jumping on Zoom. It is funny to realize how much I always enjoyed just milling around in a town hall 10 or 15 minutes before a meeting starts and catching up with the regulars or meeting new folks.
It’s not that you have to be a reporter to have those moments, but my job puts me in those situations. It puts me in a position to meet so many people and to learn about them.
Reporters do interviews. But what are interviews really, other than a conversation. Sure, there is certain information I hope to learn in an interview, but it is still just talking to people.
I had the chance to interview Gov. Larry Hogan during his first campaign. He came to our office in Chestertown. I had not met him before. I don’t know that I had ever heard him speak.
I knew that I had some tough questions for him and since he didn’t know me, I didn’t want to make him feel as though he needed to be on the defensive. So as we sat down for the interview, I started by talking about how we were just here to talk, to have a conversation and maybe we wouldn’t see eye to eye on all the topics, but that was OK. We were just there to talk.
And we had a great interview, a great conversation during which we agreed on some issues and disagreed on others. But it was all friendly conversation.
In a recent conversation with me, Wayne Gilchrest spoke about how in these post-election weeks it is important that people reach out to their friends and neighbors and forget about political discussion for a while.
The former congressman suggested we get back to sharing recipes or talking about weekend plans. I agree with him on that.
Social media, politics and COVID-19 have pushed us away from one another, but a nice conversation can be a start to bringing us together.
Email Divilio at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel