Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Greg Jordan

June 28, 2012

Q and A with kids provides fresh perspective, renewed enthusiasm

I am usually the one asking the questions, but sometimes my role gets reversed. People I normally interview are suddenly asking me questions, and I mean hardball questions.

This situation developed Tuesday when I talked to some children at the Princeton Church of God. When I arrived, I had to ask a nice lady overseeing some children how to get in — I keep forgetting what a huge place it is — and soon found myself in a big playroom complete with stage.

The children played a version of tag while a supervisor rounded up another class to listen to my talk. I sat down on the stage, got out my recorder, camera, notepad, and waited.

I know from hard-won experience that it’s difficult to make excited children settle down and listen — it’s like getting chickens to line up — but the kids at Princeton Church of God were impressive. They were excited and talkative, but they settled down right away when they were told it was time to listen.

I told them about my job as a reporter, and how it lets me see and do things other folks don’t get a chance to do. They were impressed when I told them about going aboard a submarine, the U.S.S. West Virginia, and the fact I actually got to eat lunch and dinner aboard her.

I told them about interviewing Bob Denver, the actor who played Gilligan in “Gilligan’s Island,” but it seemed that they had not watched the show. It’s time to get some reruns back on the air!

Then I took a chance and let the kids ask me some questions. Believe me, letting kids question you is always a risky business. One girl asked me how we put the newspaper together, so I told her about how the copy editors design pages on our computers and send those back to production for processing. The kids were impressed when I told them that our printing press is about three-stories tall, and they liked how I did the Star Trek “going into warp drive” sound the press makes when it’s fired up. One little girl wanted to know how we put pictures in the newspaper, and I hope I explained the process adequately.

Of course, the kids often want to tell me about things in their lives. One boy said a relative of his delivered the Daily Telegraph, and I agreed that is an important job. I told them about one carrier I interviewed who never missed a day in 15 years; he even delivered on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Finally, I was asked “the question.” How much money do you make?

I informed the boy that you don’t make a lot of money being a reporter, but I did all right and I had colleagues who actually raise families on our salaries. The boy seemed to be satisfied.

One amusing and humbling moment came when I was explaining how I often use a digital recorder now instead of writing notes out by hand; my old hands don’t keep up anymore. I let slip that I’m 51 years old, and a lot of these kids thought that was downright astonishing! You would think that I had told them that I was 501 years old. Well, I guess when you have a single-digit age, hitting 51 can seem pretty ancient.

They found the fact that I had spoken to the governor and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., almost as impressive as my longevity. I thought I was about to escape relatively unscathed when a girl eagerly asked me, “Are you going to put us in the paper?”

I told them that I would write about them. They definitely liked the idea, so here I am writing it.

I hope that I was able to broaden their world a little bit more. I know they broadened mine with that enthusiasm kids have for everything new. When you’re that young, more is new to you. Later that day I watched a baby boy happily touching a wall; even the wall was something new. It’s easy to become cynical in this business, so talking to kids can be refreshing. You’re reminded that it’s OK to think Batman’s pretty cool.

My visit last Tuesday won’t be the last time I sit down and talk to some children. With hope, I’ll be the one asking the questions next time. I can still remember when I talked to some preschool children about the first Thanksgiving. They had a general idea about this historic event, but they kept getting the Pilgrims and Columbus mixed up. No, Christopher Columbus was not at the first Thanksgiving, but it is a nice idea. Hearing that reminded me that I’ll always have something to learn.

Yes, my hands are slowing down and my mind isn’t too far behind, but talking to kids and picking up on their enthusiasm for life reminds you that you don’t have to give up on feeling young.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at

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