I must have been about 10 or 11 years old when I first tucked a notebook under my arm and hoisted myself up onto the south-facing window ledge of my neighbor’s home..

I had just read Harriet the Spy, and I was to be Harriet.

Thinking back on it now, maybe that moment foreshadowed the kind of career path I would take — one in which I’m always deeply curious and thirsty for more context about the world around me.

When I speak to college classes or am asked what makes a good journalist, I tell people the same thing: a deep sense of curiosity. The writing, the structure, the interview techniques can always be taught, can always come later. But one thing that is hard to instill in people is the gnawing, itchy feeling of just simply wanting to know why.

Why did city council make that decision?

Why did that artist make their sculpture that way?

Why did this family travel so far from their home country to make noodles in this mundane strip mall?

And that’s because the question of why always yields the best and most interesting answers.

Because they got a million dollars to do so.

Because a deeply buried childhood memory came to them.

Because they wanted a better life for their children.

And often, those are the questions and answers that evoke and elicit the most empathy.

As journalists, we aren’t necessarily telling our own stories. In fact, another thing I tell people about this job is that it’s kind of like being a conduit, a translator of sorts for people to pass their stories, their experiences, their best and worst moments, through me so others might read them and see themselves reflected, or at the very least, come to a greater understanding of the world.

And to do that, you always, always have to be asking that question: Why?

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