The People Who You Will Not Interview in New York

By Diego Ugaz

Reporting is not an exact science and even the best run into trouble sometimes, because the only certain thing in journalism is that people are unpredictable. It is very important to know when and who to choose on an interview, nothing is guaranteed, but that is not to say that there aren’t constants in the continuous search for the perfect story.

Multiple rounds through Manhattan at night will show you the people that will almost always decline interviews because of a myriad of different reasons. The first that should be mentioned is anyone with a government job, meaning your policemen, MTA employees, or any civil servants. The “no” won’t even be blatant, the excuse they usually give being: “You need to go through the proper channels to interview people.” A much unexpected, yet totally predictable answer that probably comes from the fear of losing the job they need to live. One has to respect that at least.

Another subdivision of New Yorkers that will be a tough catch are the many successful adult white males in suits that are too busy going from meeting, to deal closing, to stock broking, to private jets, to even give you five seconds because of course; time is money and money is life. It would have been a pretty big achievement to just get over a sentence out of these sweatless, Armani shoe-wearing power walkers, but such is life, there are millions of other interesting and beautiful folks in the city.

The most dangerous and impossible interview that one can try to obtain, legally anyway, is that of a paranoid schizophrenic street preacher with delusions of grandeur. The second this character was approached he knew what time it was. Though his God praising partner was very compliant and cooperative, he insisted that he was not going to be interviewed, especially if this was for “persecution purposes.” When the interview with his partner was over he talked about how the government had tried to frame him for murder as he badly and whitely tried to rap along to Snoop Dogg’s “Murder Was the Case.”

This is the strange beauty that one faces trying to make it as a writer, these are the things that toughen the writing hide until it is thick as rhinoceros flesh. The best way to deal with these curbs is to keep a list of those subdivisions of New Yorkers that have escaped you, so you can keep searching for your white whale until you can strike its name off your list.