Authors In The Media With Sarah McCammon

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Authors In The Media Q&A With Sarah McCammon

I have the pleasure of collaborating once again with EXVangelicals author Sarah McCammon for this edition of Authors In The Media. In this edition of Authors In The Media, we will discuss her journalism career! It’s always fascinating talking about what authors do/did outside of being an author! 

Q: Sarah, in our Q&A about EXVangelicals, we briefly discussed your journalism career. You spoke about your love of words and writing and that you love the pursuit of understanding information & truth is why you are a journalist. Would you say those are still the same reasons you continue to be a journalist to this day?

A: Yes, I love being in a profession that is to a large degree about exploring ideas – and how people apply their ideas to real life and public policy debates. So that drives me today, as does a love of words and people.

Q: How long have you been a journalist for? 

A: Yikes. 21 years! I have been working in journalism since February 2003, when I was still in college and began a newspaper internship in the Chicago area that turned into my first job. I started my first public radio job in August 2004, so I’m going on to work for 20 years in public media later this year.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a great journalist?  

A: Curiosity, empathy, attention to accuracy and detail, the ability to build relationships with sources, and a desire to always be learning something new. Journalism is a great way to discover how much you don’t know because we’re constantly covering new things! 

Q: Since you are a journalist and author, what are your favorite shows where a journalist is the main character? One show I recommend (if you haven’t seen it) is Tokyo Vice on MAX (formerly known as HBO MAX) which is loosely based on Jake Adelstein’s true crime memoir about investigating yakuza and other crime in Japan. 

A: I don’t watch very much TV and when I do, I would rather not think about work! I started watching “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Aniston a few months back. It’s a terrific show – but I had to stop because I needed to think about something other than the news. I like watching documentaries with one of my sons who’s a history buff, the other end of the spectrum – lighthearted stuff. Lately I’ve been watching “Love on the Spectrum” which has nothing to do with my work and feels life-affirming.

Q: You must have interviewed so many people in your career. Would you like to tell us about who you interviewed and what those experiences were like for you? 

A: I’ve had the opportunity to interview writers and musicians and lawmakers, and obviously that’s very cool. I loved talking to Kacey Musgraves a few years ago, for example, because I love her music. But my favorite interviews have been with ordinary people who aren’t famous. There’s something very humbling about sitting at someone’s kitchen table while they’re going through grief or loss or trauma and hearing their story.

Q: What are your favorite newsworthy topics to cover? 

A: Most of my career at NPR has centered around American politics, which is never boring. But sometimes I miss my days as a reporter at smaller NPR stations, when I covered something different every day – a fight over eminent domain in coastal Georgia, women in farming in Iowa, water rights in Nebraska. I feel so fortunate that I had those experiences early in my career because I learned so much and I think it’s made me more versatile.

Q: What important lessons have you learned as a journalist that you would pass on to aspiring journalists and for anyone who finds the topic interesting?

A: Like any career, there will be highs and lows. Don’t do it if you don’t love work – there are many easier ways to make a living. But there are many worse ways, and if you love learning and storytelling, it’s hard to beat.