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Insider: January 29, 2021 — Introducing a new Insider feature

Hey! Aria here. I’m taking over the Friday Insiders, and in what I believe to be true “Insider” fashion, I’m going to build out a new recurring feature that’s designed to take you behind the scenes.

Even on shows — and occasional news reports — that let you hear the questions a source is being asked, you don’t necessarily get to know what the actual questioner is thinking, how they prepared, or, more importantly, how much they shape a conversation even before it’s had.

As a reporter, I think about this a lot. Interviewing on tape is like playing an instrument… and singing, simultaneously. You’re responsible not only for drawing out useful, informative responses, but also useful, informative responses that sound good. And, occasionally, you have to sound good, too.INTRODUCING: AND I’M YOUR HOST…

So, here’s the idea behind this new feature. I’m calling it And I’m Your Host, where I’ll flip the script and interview the interviewers. They’ll get five prompts, collectively meant to get at what’s going through their minds when they think through an interview. Maybe it’ll help you be a better interviewer, if that’s a goal of yours. Or maybe it’ll just help you notice the things you don’t hear.

First up? Kimberly Adams.

I originally learned of Adams by way of Make Me Smart, Marketplace’s candid news-and-chatcast about money and the economy. It publishes daily, featuring Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood and, occasionally, Adams, and you get to hear not only the business updates typical of Marketplace’s All Things Considered-adjacent news spots but how the people who bring you this information might actually feel about it.

People who report on money report on money and are people; these reporters have both helped me understand what has historically felt esoteric and dense and showed me that, once I understand it, it’s okay to have a reaction, namely by leading by example. (This is the premise of another Marketplace podcast, This Is Uncomfortable. What interests me about Make Me Smart is that it achieves this effect without explicitly setting out to.)

What struck me about Adams was how immediately she manifested this response. I trusted her to keep me, the listener, in mind, as she navigated. She appeared always able and willing to change pace; sometimes, she would just stop. Whether it was to process something herself, give listeners a minute to catch up, or force all parties to feel the weight of what had just been said, I can’t say. I can say it was chilling. I wanted to know more about her, what goes on inside her head. If you find yourself wondering the same thing, enjoy.

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Hot Pod: What’s a question you always find yourself asking sources that feels unique to your approach to telling a story?

Kimberly Adams: “For people who are coming to this issue for the first time, what do you think they need to know to put all of this (“this” being whatever the news is) into context?”

I spend a lot of time talking to “experts” in various fields, and they often speak to me based on what they think I know or how they talk to their colleagues. That often is not where our audience enters the conversation.

HP: If someone asked you that same question, how would you answer it?

Adams: Unfortunately, the issues many people in media have been coming to for “the first time” lately have been around DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and how pervasive racism is in the economy and journalism. Most days, I can’t be bothered to explain it, because if it took the events [of] the last year to make someone suddenly pay attention, it says something about that individual, and I doubt I want to invest the time/energy to educate them. If I am willing, I’m probably going to tell them to read a book or hire one of the many people who have made careers out of educating/training folks on this.

HP: Which story that you’ve reported have you been the most attached to?

Adams: In light of recent events, I’ve been thinking a lot about this story I did in 2019 about the people who work to prep and maintain Congressional offices. The craftspeople I talked to are so talented and proud of their work, and as I watched the events of January 6, I was so worried for them and sad for their hard work being trashed.

HP: Who’s made you the most nervous to interview?

Adams: Years ago, when I worked in local news, I was often in a position where I needed to interview people who recently lost a loved one to the Afghanistan/Iraq wars, car accidents, or other tragedies. Those were always hard interviews and made me nervous.

In terms of celebrities, I interviewed Erika Alexander last year and spent the whole interview actively suppressing my fangirl instinct. She played Maxine on Living Single, a TV show that had a major influence on me when I was younger.

HP: Ask yourself one question that you want to be asked. Then answer it.

Adams: “What changes in the industry make you the most excited?”

I’m really encouraged by the increasing numbers of outlets and platforms for creative storytelling in news. When I started in the industry 20+ years ago, your options were radio, TV, print, and the very new “online” outlets. Now there are so many more conduits to reach audiences and a ton of innovation happening to develop even more.

While this risks further fragmenting audiences and poses challenges in terms of what business models will be sustainable, I think we all have such an opportunity to find relevant and creative ways to reach more people. This time around, I’m hopeful that we see more BIPOC and other underrepresented groups taking the lead in these spaces early on.

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Kimberly Adams is a host and correspondent at Marketplace, where she covers the intersection of politics and the economy from Washington, D.C. Prior to her time at Marketplace, she worked as a freelance reporter based in Cairo, Egypt, where she covered the economic, political, and social effects of the Arab Spring. Adams is currently the Board Chair at the National Press Club and active on projects with the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She spends her downtime swimming, watching anime, and trying to sort out VR gaming with her 70-year-old mother.

As an aside: back in May 2020, a viral tweet featured a man referred to as “Uncle David,” Adams’s actual uncle whom she “accidentally made internet famous over the summer.” Now you can see him — and his husband, also named David — on Instagram, where “they went from 200 to almost 100K Instagram followers,” writes Adams, “just from being cute.”Revolving Door. Got a new job? Tell me, would love to Let The People Know.