My senior year at MSU, I took Magazine Reporting, a class I had been waiting to take my whole college career. Taught by Bill McWhirter, one of the most beloved MSU J-school professors, I knew it was going to be wonderful. And it was! It was amazing actually.
The class was devoted to the art of reporting, and really, the art of the interview. What makes a good interview? What questions are a waste of time? How do you have a “golden hour” (an hour-long interview) with a source? We came up with our “new school rules” of reporting and agreed that “How did it make you feel?” is kind of the worst interview question. The class had one main assignment: write a magazine-style article on a topic that required each of us to do a lot of in-depth interviews with our sources.
We pitched our projects in the third week of class. Everyone talked about their given topics and we sort of brainstormed together and bounced ideas. This was my pitch: It’s pretty common for gay people to have kids these days. Two moms, two dads, donor sperm and eggs…no big deal. There’s no real secrecy about it anymore. It’s the modern family.
But what about kids who were born twenty years ago? It wasn’t so common then. What was it like for them? I planned to do in-depth interviews with college-aged kids who had a gay parent.
So that was my pitch! Pretty simple, but a good idea, right? We also had to come up with a “slug” which in journalism is sort of a name you use to refer to a story as you’re working on it, as opposed to the actual headline or title that will appear in print. When McWhirter asked for my slug, I said, “Dad’s Gay!” Exclamation point! JAZZ HANDS!! Everyone laughed, but the slug stuck.
So I worked all semester on my project, my last real assignment before graduation, and turned it in and held my breath. I knew some of us would read them aloud and some wouldn’t. McWhirter asked me to go first reading mine aloud.
It was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think I breathed the entire time I was reading. I knew if I took a breath, I might not get through it. But that was OK — I don’t think anyone else in the class took a breath either. The story was just so much more than I had pitched it to be.
But it’s my very best article, one of the pieces I’m most proud of, and since only a handful of people outside that class have ever read it, I decided to share it here. I’m putting it after the jump simply because it’s so long and it would take up way too much space on my homepage. So while I find click-throughs incredibly annoying, I’m using one in this case.
So click on through and read: Dad’s Gay!