William Phifer III

MY STORIES:

MY BLOG: Finding a voice

Entering into my second semester of a communication degree at the University of Utah, I still had the misconception that people don’t like talking to reporters and journalists.

However, as I interviewed and reported on small-business owners throughout the semester, I have learned that individuals generally like to talk about themselves and their passions. I guess I shouldn’t have found this so surprising, since I was essentially providing free publicity for their business.

Although I was surprised to find that people were enthusiastic to take time out of their busy schedules. Even more surprising to me was their willingness to work with my schedule.

Until this semester I hadn’t realized how much time it takes to interview people and gather information for a story. I spent hours talking to these small-business owners trying to learn the complexities of their business, art and craft.

For my first story, “Unique, local restaurants bring cultural value to Utah,” I spoke to Jake Garn, the owner of Corbin’s Grille, as well as Jimbo Snarr, the executive chef. I wanted to see why they had a passion for small local restaurants. While briefly talking to Snarr on the phone I learned that he would be offering a cooking demonstration that was open to the public. I asked if I could attend and he said he would be happy to have me there.

Prior to this, I have never taken culinary classes and I had never been to a cooking demonstration, which would probably explain my inability to prepare an edible meal.

Walking into Corbin’s Grille on a sunny Saturday afternoon for the cooking demonstration, I was unsure what to expect.

I didn’t know if we were going to aid in the cooking process or if we were just going to watch. More importantly, since I was hungry, I wondered if we would get to try the food. I imagined we would all get a sample once the food was done.

However, while Snarr was showing us how to expertly prepare the king salmon, I was unaware that he was having the kitchen prepare that same dish for each person at the demonstration. Once the delectable dinner-sized looking salmon was placed in front of me, I began to wonder the cost of the cooking demonstration. Surely it wouldn’t be free.

At the end of the demonstration I was surprised when the server brought me the check. It had a total of $0.00. I asked the Chef, “Is this right?” To which he replied, “Yeah, I thought I’d take care of you since you are doing a story about our restaurant.” Although unintentional, I felt as if I was taking a bribe to write a story about the restaurant where he worked. Since it felt ethically wrong, I respectfully told him that I should pay for the demonstration and meal just like everyone else and he accepted.

Going to the demonstration and conducting an interview with Snarr took about three hours, to my surprise. Later in the semester as I interviewed other business owners for two more stories, I found that this was the approximate amount of time it took to complete the first interview.

It wasn’t particularly the interview itself that took a lot of time. Rather, it was trying to understand what the owners did for a living and how they excelled at their craft.

However, after spending all that time learning the basics of their craft, I was astonished at how little of that information I used in my stories. I had to learn almost every aspect of what they did so that I could understand it and write about it. Yet for fear of confusing readers by making the story to complex, I left out a lot of details.

While their craft and passion is an important part, as a journalist if I tried to focus too much on the details, I found that my stories lacked focus.

Therefore, I discovered that writing was more about the individuals than their business and the idiosyncrasies of what they actually do.

As a beat reporter covering small local business, I represented those people through my stories. Through my experience I was able to focus on things that interested me. Although, that may not always be the case in my journalism career, for now I know that I have begun to create a name for myself.

At the same time I have also given those small-business owners another opportunity for their opinions and their voice to be heard.

ABOUT ME:

Music has always been a big part of my life.

One of the first memories I can recall as a little boy was asking my dad how to whistle. Over time I became very good at hearing the nuances in sound, both natural and man-made, and imitating them.

William Phifer III

Photo take by James Cluff at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah.

In addition, I also played the violin in middle school. However, unlike whistling, practicing the violin requires the presence of a physical instrument, so I never became all that good. Since I was naturally talented at creating pitch and sound with the use of my lips and tongue, one might assume that I am also a skilled singer.

This, however, was a realization that I hadn’t come to until four years ago. Growing into my adulthood I started listening to and enjoying country music. It is through country music that I found my voice and recognized my natural ability to sing. The distinct sound of country vocals not only suits my voice but also speaks to my character, since I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman.

It is my dream to make a career by singing country music, but why should I limit my vocal talents to singing.

Working in customer service, I have learned that people enjoy the low tone and clear quality of my baritone voice and they like listening to me talk. Many individuals have commented, “You have a great radio voice and you should do something with it.”

I am here to do just that.

I believe majoring in broadcast journalism is the best way for me to get my voice out there and learn the skills necessary for a vocal career. Whether I find a career working as a radio host, journalist, or country singer, one thing remains clear.

I will find a way to make my voice heard.