The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

Dinner, Conversation, and Journalism 101

Noted journalist reminds our EIC how important it is to ask the right questions

Adam Bryant at Malvern Prep / Malvern Communications
Adam Bryant at Malvern Prep / Malvern Communications

Adam Bryant, a renowned writer and editor for the New York Times, is known for the questions he asks some of the most powerful men and women in the world. His weekly columns in The Corner Office series center around questions that make these people think, to open up.

 On Thursday March 27th, Mr. Bryant arrived on campus as the latest presenter in the recently instituted Distinguished Speaker series. As part of a two session event, Bryant listened, commented, and then posed questions to all of us.

All those who attended Thursday’s C schedule assembly know about the two team’s speeches were followed by a short commentary by Mr. Bryant. What many don’t know is that afterwards, the presenters, along with a few winners of a raffle, were given the chance to share dinner with the respected writer in Austin Hall.Through a little luck and a lot of good will, I was given the opportunity to join the group for dinner and to pose a few questions to the questioner.

What was expected to be a casual dinner with some good conversation immediately turned into a classroom. Mr. Bryant turned my simple inquiry on his process of forming the questions he poses to some of the most successful people in the world into a valuable lesson for everyone in the room.

Mr. Bryant emphasized the importance of doing your homework beforehand. His job consists of sitting down with some of the top business leaders and CEOs in the world. Their time is very valuable, he has to ask questions that make sense to them and facilitate a beneficial conversation.

But its not all about peppering his subjects with questions. Bryant must make his subjects feel comfortable and also he must show them he is genuinely interested. By doing his homework and knowing a little about these people, he gets them to really open up and share their stories. Asking the right questions comes from a mix of being knowledgeable and alert, and also by having the passionate curiosity discussed in many of his articles.

Beyond his tips on interviewing, Mr. Bryant gave a very interesting take on writing. He actually hates the word ‘writing’. ‘Writing’ to him is really just thinking, and it irks him whenever he hears someone say, “Oh now I am going to sit down and write.” Bryant says writing is communicating thought coherently. You don’t have to “find your voice” when you write because your voice is your opinions, your thoughts.

I was ecstatic when offered the chance to meet Mr. Bryant because journalism is something that interests me. I went thinking, “This will be pretty cool to be in the same room as a real live writer for the New York Times.” When Mr. Bryant turned the dinner into a crash course on reporting, I could not be more appreciative. Even when the conversation strayed from my original question, he still turn to me at certain points to say “Did you get that?”

It was as if once he knew I was a journalist, we shared a bond. He went out of his way to help me better understand writing and reporting.

At one point, Mr.Bryant asked Mr. Talbot if he could conduct a mock interview on him.

Mr. Talbot agreed, starting off with some background questions, then some pretty serious questions about running the school. Mr.Talbot gave a long, detailed answer, and Bryant followed up by telling a relatable story from his own experience.

Then he turned to me and said, “By doing that it gives the subject of the interview a chance to catch their breath and to see it more as a conversation.” Bryant has perfected this art of turning an interview into a conversation.

He also recognized that the way we approach writing is scary because we have been taught there is a certain way to write and that’s that. The comment that resonated the most was that I need to be okay with sitting with a blank piece of paper, thinking it out, and then just writing.

Walking out of Austin Hall that night, I was blown away. First of all,I was elated at the chance I had to learn from a writer for one of the most respected news organizations in the world.

Second, I wish I had learned those simple tricks before.

[button link=”” newwindow=”yes”] More on the Distinguished Lecture Series presentation with Adam Bryant[/button]

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