By Nathaniel Dalerio // Mosaic Staff Writer
Since the beginning of the program our editors and advisors spoke faintly of a “Sean Webby.”
“If there was a part of the program that taught the how-tos of journalism, it was when you guys speak to Sean,” said program director, Marcos Cabrera.
The mock crime he orchestrated, along with our editor, Robert Salonga, had the Mosaic staff in a fluster as we had very little time to prepare our teams and questions for a press conference with a less-than-cooperative police chief played by Webby about the capture of the “Park Pervert.” During the conference, the “police chief” would say very little about the case and his demeanor forced me to second guess my questions which in turn had me asking less. After a discouraging conference, we began writing our stories, only given twenty-five minutes to write the article,the team I was assigned to and I feverishly typed over each other on the same document, trying to make sense of the hysteria.
We were then told we could have an interview with any person we thought would help with our article. My group chose a cop who participated in the sting operation who was more cooperative than the police chief but we dropped the ball with our questioning. We didn’t even ask him for his name and didn’t mention the anonymous tip we received earlier, dismissing it as unreliable.
After our stories were done we sat back in the conference room and talked to the real Sean Webby, not his acting alter ego. Complete shift.
He went over what he liked and what he didn’t like about each publication and really shared his expertise and experiences with us. After all the stories he told I had a bit of an epiphany. Being a journalist isnt about writing news, it’s about telling stories and as a journalist you get to experience first hand, just how amazing these stores are. “Journalists have the best stories,” someone said on the way to lunch after his presentation and in all honesty it seems to be true.
By Cohen Price // Mosaic Staff Writer
Today was the day that we would meet Sean Webby, Public Information Officer for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and former Mercury News crime reporter, and learn “how to take control of an interview”. While I was initially excited and couldn’t wait for the meeting, I didn’t expect it to turn out like this. As soon as we arrived to the newsroom that morning, we had approximately thirty-minutes to work on our story before Webby arrived. I expected to sit in a room with Sean Webby and conversate with him for an hour and a half. I was wrong.
When Webby arrived, it felt as if the whole aura of the building shifted from a nice day at work to a surprising trip to hell. Things began to change and some things were changing too quickly. One minute we were supposed to have a meeting with Sean Webby, the next minute we were interviewing him about a man who was suspected of raping four women.
Crazy right? Thats what I was thinking the whole time. The instructions were brief on what to do, Interview officer Webby, write your paper within 25 minutes and turn your story into your editor at deadline. It was strange, throughout the whole event I wasn’t nervous, but I was so discombobulated that I was speechless most of the time. My questions didn’t flow like they used to, my brain was scattered all over the place, my hands kept shaking as I was writing quotes down; making my writing illegible–even for me.
The problem was, I didn’t know what was going on. We ran into a room to interview Sean Webby about an incident that was unheard of until the moment we stepped into the room. There was no time to come up with starter questions, no time to figure out an angle for our story. This was a side of journalism that I had never experienced before. As if that wasn’t enough Webby wasn’t exactly the nicest soul ever (or at least he didn’t start off that way). His answers wouldn’t be as specific as we wanted them to be, he would give off some rude remark at the end of his answer, “You should know better than to ask that”, and when the room would become silent for a brief moment he would he would the reporter’s concentration saying how he doesn’t have much time, and he need to go.
Well when this exercise was finally over, we had the chance to see who the real Webby was and received some great insight on “How to take control of an Interview”. Thanks to this brief experience, I’ve learned to “push back” and that when interviewing others, I should “find their currency” in order to make them feel comfortable to talk to me, by asking myself what would get me talking in their shoes.