This comes from personal experience, I’m sorry to say.
A couple of months ago, I had an idea for an article. Jerry Caminito, a native of Jackson, New Jersey, was a privateer drag racer for many years and is famous for suffering an absolutely MASSIVE accident in 1994 at the Memphis Motorsports Park.
Caminito was doing a practice run in his Funny Car when his rear skid plate came loose. Caminito veered straight into the guardrail and crashed at 279mph, sending the car over the wall and into a deathroll. Caminito was tossed about in the crash, and when the car finally came to a stop, his legs could be seen sticking out of the rollcage.
Caminito somehow survived this accident with few permanent injuries, and returned to drag racing the next year.
There wasn’t much available on Caminito, so I contacted him for an interview. However, the way I conducted myself was very unprofessional. I wasn’t rude or anything, but my responses were very distant, and in retrospect, seemed almost faked. I started everything off with ‘Dear Mr. Caminito’, and spoke in such a manner that it seemed like I was putting him on a pedestal. Even worse, when he agreed to the interview, I said that I would be leaving for a few days (which I was, for personal reasons, though this had been planned for several weeks). I believe he was simply fed up and decided not to respond any further, which, looking back on it, I can justify. If I was in his shoes, I likely would have as well.
Props to Mr. Caminito for not giving up after his crash, he is a true fighter.
Nowadays, I’ve learned how to speak to others.
Step 1: Apologize for interrupting them, AKA ‘Sorry if I’m bothering you’
Step 2: State your interests and purpose, AKA ‘I’m a journalist with a focus on motorsports and I thought you may know something about _____________’
Step 3: Wait for a response
Step 4: Just be natural from there, be respectful and use proper grammar, but you don’t have to be overprofessional (because that IS a thing)
Soooo yeah, that’s my biggest screwup as a journalist, hopefully I learned something from it and it never happens again.