I’m currently on a week’s work experience at the Derbyshire Times, a paper which covers Chesterfield and the surrounding small towns and villages. I’ve been given a task that they want me to go out and complete at some point tomorrow and I have pretty mixed feelings about the idea.
Objectively it’s an interesting opportunity to follow up on a potentially interesting story, a chance to practice interviews in person rather than simply over the phone and a chance to practice a different kind of journalism to simply writing news in brief segments. Subjectively however it sounds really quite terrifying.
That is because the story is all about dogs. And not just cute, friendly dogs. The reason I’m being sent to a park in Chesterfield is that there’ve been a couple of attacks by violent dogs, on other dogs. Now I should point out that I have what pretty much amounts to a phobia of dogs. They scare the bijeezus out of me so, if I was making a straightforward choice, I would never opt to go into a park and start walking up to dog owners, or more accurately, their dogs.
I have never been fully able to justify why dogs freak me out so damn much, hence why I class it as a phobia (the title is apparently the word for that phobia) rather than a perfectly rational fear. I think it’s at least partly down to the combination of their capability for serious violence and their unpredictability; I can’t understand or reason with them.
I tend to be able to develop a greater sense of calm around a dog once I’ve spent a bit of time with it, it’s how I’ve become acclimatised to my friend’s pet dogs. However I remember just how terrified I was when I met them the first time and tomorrow is going to be full of meeting dogs for the first time without any chance to begin to get used to them. Somehow I doubt that a high quantity of individual meetings will have the same calming effect as spending a high quantity of time with an individual dog.
However I’m grateful for the opportunity I have at this paper and I appreciate that there is a value to learning what conducting an interview is like when a long way out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t change the fact though that I would rather sit in a cell with a convicted murderer and ask them personal questions, than walk right up to someone walking their dog and deliberately get their attention.
I’ll do my best on the job and will try and come across as confidently as I can, but whether or not I manage to seem calm, I can absolutely guarantee that my heart will be pounding in my chest throughout.