The idea did not come as a zing as I expected will happen. Somewhere on the bus? Somewhere on the bed? None of that happened.
It was not until one Sunday. No. It was before that Sunday evening. I had been, in the words of Allison Hill, ‘hunting’ to find an idea (partly because the deadline was near and all the ideas I had previously documented, suddenly did not seem good enough) when I stumbled upon an idea inception, ADHD. This is where I learnt my first lesson. Don’t wait for the idea, look for it. I went on social media, looked through YouTube, and made sure my ‘magnet’ was active to attract ideas. The next stage of my newsgathering was to know what angle I intended on exploring. That didn’t come by waiting also. My strategy was to source the internet, especially through journal articles and social media and discover the professions and researches in ADHD certain professionals explored. Then, reach out to these people, requesting an interview with them and proposing a theme that was tailored to their niche in ADHD. This helped to have the ball close by, close enough to almost start rolling. Not just that, it also opened me to new angles, and I must add, some ‘controversial’ statements about ADHD. So what went on in my mind after then? I was thinking ‘Do I focus on ADHD in women?’, ‘ADHD in single mothers?’ ‘Underrepresentation of ADHD in Nigerian children?’ So many thoughts running through my mind, even in my subconscious. Yet, I was still unsure. Finally, it happened. I knew for sure what story to tell. That happened through constant exposure of myself to more information and angles. Now the ball is rolling.
The ball is rolling now. Who am I writing for?
At first, I did not know. Future recruiters? Someone who’s interested in the headline enough to read through the story? After being ankle deep into my story, I am finally able to answer that. I am writing for parents or guardians with underage children and teachers of schools, to pay close attention to the females in schools and at home with slight or major symptoms of ADHD. This story is also suitable for women with undiagnosed ADHD to be encouraged to seek diagnosis from psychiatrists if they sense a challenge with their health. Probing further, research by Quinn and Madhoo in 2014 reviewing ADHD disorder in women and girls has shown that the underdiagnosis of ADHD in girls is due to a number of reasons, one of which is the internalising symptoms that they present as opposed to externalising such symptoms as well as the subtype of ADHD that they express. When these individuals are made aware of the difference in symptoms between ADHD in boys and that of girls, they pay attention even more to the girl child and encourage suspected symptoms of ADHD in girls to be checked for ADHD diagnosis. This piece is also to encourage psychologists and other medical practitioners to carry out more research on the ADHD symptoms expressed by girls as suggested by Quinn and Madhoo in their study.
This piece contains stories of women with ADHD, where they describe how their ADHD brain navigates living, making decisions, eating choices, medications and what life was like before their official diagnosis. This piece therefore is beneficial to these mentioned individuals as it’s a glimpse as well as a substantial information that subsequently if pursued, will result to more research as well as diagnosis of females with ADHD. The language and research in the story is supplemented by facts, to verify the statements presented about the ADHD condition which ensured trust is built between the reader and the writer.
Reaching out to potential interviewees is an extreme mental sport. So, have it all planned out. Strategically planning to go for your interviewee hunt, mailing or send messages to a gazillion number of people for your story I learned will be helpful. In my experience, it best to do that much early before reaching a story’s deadline. Reach out to many people as possible that will be relevant to your story. Why? There’s a chance one may or may not be granted an interview. Also, never underestimate the power of potential interviewees to ‘ghost’ you even after they have agreed to an interview.
Additionally, my interviewees search would have been quicker, and less anxiety filled if I had started with familiar connections first, reaching out to people I knew first who could then refer me to people they knew would be relevant for my story. I realised that I had an edge when I was referred to other people by a mutual as I easily could mention that I was referred to them by a mutual.
Knowing what part of the interview to include in the story and to not be sentimental to speeches of the interviewees but pick what was new and relevant to the story was another practice of good journalism for me. This also played out in my reflective blog, skimming through the draft to know what was not necessary and what should be deleted from the story.
The short video was an explainer piece. It contained little snippets of what the audience was to expect in the feature story as well as explain in a short time the synopsis of the story. It made use of images and videos, specifically b-rolls, with a voice over that addressed the issue, building a story line. This video was supplemented with a ‘rising tension’ soundtrack to draw the audience attention to the seriousness of the issue being explored in the story. The explainer piece was educative and would give the viewers a reason to care about reading the full details of the story. I used images to buttress the storyline of the explainer as well as help the audience in easier visualization of the concept being discussed. Interchanging between images and videos was done to make the video less monotonous.
Through one of my interviewees and research, I learnt the relation of ADHD to trauma. While one of my interviewees made references to it during the interview, I avoided probing what she meant. Now looking back at some of the statements she made about wanting to be validated which led to the unrealistic perfectionism she became a victim of, it all makes sense. In Naseem Miller’s Trauma informed Journalism: What is it, why it’s important and tips for practicing it, I was even more sensitive , reaching out to my next interviewees, I was in her words: ‘Giving the survivors power in the storytelling process’. While I am not particularly asking them to permit the questions that I ask as Tamara Cherry writes in her Tips for Journalists, I am giving them the power to refuse to answer any question that makes them uncomfortable or triggers a traumatic episode. Also, not over-sensationalising their words or taking their words out of context to get ‘attention,’ as that would be unethical. However, I must admit, there is a part of me that mourns that I would not have whatever question that may be, answered as a result of my giving them power.
The use of the multimedia, specifically the pictures in my feature story was intended to make the story less monotonous, aid better imagination and understanding of the story. The staccato lead used in the beginning of the story was to introduce the audience into the state of mind of someone with an ADHD brain. I planned on using the third person descriptive lead but decided against it as I felt the former was more descriptive of the ADHD brain and life experiences. The headline evolved to be emotive and was intentionally chosen to trigger curiousity in the minds of the audience to read through or part of the story to know of the people asking: ‘Do you see us?’
Three lessons learnt. Be flexible with your ideas and know when to give up on pursuing one. Know also which idea is realistic enough to pursue, especially given a particular time frame. Secondly, bring back home the conversation of your interviewee when they are going off course. Take charge of the conversation. While I held back from calling back home of my interviewee’s that was going ‘astray’, I learnt not to do that again simply because it a waste of time. Finally, understand your topic well enough to ask relevant questions. This for me was partly because I didn’t want to come off to my interviewees as mediocre and partly because I wanted a substantial story.