The All-American Cowgirl: Behind the ScenesBy Emily Lierle
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our managing editor, Kelly Vaughn Kramer, is mentoring Emily Lierle, a student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. When Kramer traveled to Wickenburg to interview cowgirl Jane McGeary (see “The All-American Cowgirl,” in our August issue), Lierle went with her. Here, she talks about the experience.
Taking a jaunt over to Wickenburg for an interview happened to be one of my favorite days in my first year at the Cronkite School. As a budding journalist, I had the unique privilege of accompanying Kelly while she interviewed a cowgirl named Jane McGeary — and of getting to ask McGeary a few questions myself.
One thing I appreciate about journalism is forming connections with interviewees; McGeary and I had the commonalities of North Dakota and Park City, Utah. I took particular interest in hearing her quotidian routines as a cowgirl and the wonderful things her coworkers had to say about her hard work ethic.
As a budding journalist, it was a treat for me to step into the shoes of an Arizona Highways writer. My childhood idols were authors and Arizona Republic columnists, and playing dress-up often consisted of pretend interviews and scribbling “quotes” on a notebook page after asking the pressing questions of a 6-year-old me. Thus, the real interview was an ambition come true.
The only thing that ever plagues me before an interview is worrying whether the interviewee will be pleasant. That’s really what matters to me, and I’ve learned that although I can’t please everyone, smiling alleviates the tension of everyone involved. Of course, a successful interview necessitates more components than just a smile, but it’s something I always try to remember. Kelly has been a great mentor, and she smiles plenty, so I know I’m under the mentorship of a great journalist!
The interview wasn’t as long as I had expected it to be. I usually ask a lot of questions, but Kelly gathered just enough information so that she could craft a well-rounded piece. Being there for the interview process heightened my aspiration to become a magazine writer; political writing seems to anger people, and hard-news writing can be depressing. With the kind of writing that Kelly and the rest of the Arizona Highways staff do, traveling and creatively crafting words remain open. Seeing what the Arizona Highways writers devote to each issue also offers a glimpse into how much enjoyment they have in researching, interviewing and writing each piece.
The trip to Wickenburg highlighted what journalism means to me: executing a successful interview, transferring meaningful words into pearls strung on a page, traveling as much as possible, and flashing a smile when it seems most fitting.