My first business journalism assignment was profiling a nail salon.
I was in high school. The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania hired me to write an article for the “lifestyle” section. A new nail salon had opened in the mall, and my assignment was to profile the local business.
I wasn’t shy. I asked the owner of the nail salon questions. I was getting surface level responses. Very sanitary, predictable answers. Crap. Even at 16 years old, I knew I would have to get my hands dirty to get a real interview. Pardon the pun.
“You know what?” I raised my hand. “Can I get a manicure?“ Luckily, I had asked my mom for some pocket change before I left home and had at least $15 bucks jangling around in my purse.
I got to chatting with her. What was the inspiration? Where was she from? Why a nail salon? nail salons like McDonalds were only just starting to come into fashion. Why now? Why this location? What did she love about doing peoples nails? What was her favorite story? That’s when I got the interview I wanted. Later I would get in trouble with my editor for handing in a receipt for the manicure. It was my first lesson in good journalism so it was worth the tongue lashing.
Get on the front lines if seeking depth.
Craig Storti, in his book “Why Travel Matters” writes about the difference between a “tourist” and the “traveller.”
The “tourist” has the safe, very sanitary experience, maybe in a group. The “traveller” immerses with the local culture and its denizens.
Today, no matter what country I’m traveling to, I still saddle up to a local nail salon and get a manicure or pedicure. This is me in Fethiye, Turkey, Saturday, chatting with the girl who did my pedicure. Her family owned the business. Her mother was dying hair on a client. Her youngest brother was parked on a nearby chair reading a book. Her teenage brother pinned her hair back with barrettes so it would stay out of her face as she worked. We chatted about New York, my age, the loud music videos playing on the nearby tv screen. It reminded me of Bollywood videos with the synchronized dancing in groups.
The traveller. She immerses.
I’m in Turkey this week leading the annual @womensleadershiplab sail for my C-level women. Www.joyadass.com