Building trust

The distrust was palpable.

It’s hard to pinpoint what, exactly, made it so obvious. Something in her body language, in the way she spoke?

But I pulled out my notebook and hoped she would thaw.

She didn’t.

The others gathered around the table, some knew me. The woman beside me had been chatting about her grandson for the 10 minutes we waited for the doors to open. I’d quoted the woman across the table plenty of times before.

But the one calling the shots, the one refusing to answer my very basic informational question  — I hadn’t worked with her before.

And she didn’t trust me.

It’s a community that doesn’t trust each other, that thinks the worst of one another. So I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me that she didn’t trust me, either.

But it made the story hard to write.

Today I looked over the notes I scrawled across the notebook and they’re sparse. I can write a story but it’s not a good one. I filed it anyway, put in what I have.

Because you can’t build trust in one interview. And I know it will take story after story to build — and even then, perhaps, it won’t, because ‘fair’ doesn’t always seem fair to someone in the midst of a bitter fight.

But I’m reminded that reporting is more than showing up at meetings and taking notes during an interview. It’s an investment of time, of sitting down just to talk about what’s going on, of being around, saying hello, remembering to ask about the grandson.

I’ll be back, to put the notebook away and buy a cup of coffee and try to build the trust that isn’t there.


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