Maggie with Katie
About a month before my story on 17-year-old basketball sensation Jabari Parker appeared in Sports Illustrated, I showed the text to Katie Couric. After reading it, she agreed to do a television profile on him for ABC. It will air tomorrow (Thursday) morning on Good Morning America at 8 a.m. EST.
Whenever writing a book or magazine story, I’m always thinking about how to package the same story for television or film. Writing a profile on Parker for SI and then working with Katie Couric to turn it into a television segment for Good Morning America ranks right up there as one of my favorite journalism experiences. But I have a hunch that when I look back on all this years from now, the aspect I’ll cherish most is the time I spent on this story with my 10-year-old daughter Maggie May. I’ll explain.
A few weeks back I got a call from a former editor of mine who just started a blog. He wanted to interview me about my work habits. He’s pretty familiar with my tendency to work excessive hours and travel often while simultaneously juggling numerous projects. He also knows I have four children. So he asked how I balance my profession with my parenting obligations.
Truth is, I don’t. When it comes to profession and parenting, I don’t believe in balance. Maybe that’s because I’m so bad at it. But to succeed in journalism, I will always spend a lot more time writing than I do as a hands-on parent. Most professionals I know – men and women – are in the same boat.
Rather than beat myself up over this, I aim for quality over quantity when it comes to time with my kids. There are lots of ways to go about this. For me I’ve made a habit of taking one of my children with me when I travel. I’ve always done this. When I bring one of my kids on the road I get more quality time with them than when I’m home.
I brought Maggie when I spent three days in New York working with Katie and the Good Morning America team on the Jabari Parker story. One reason I chose Maggie is she loves New York. More important, however, is that she’s shown an interest in journalism. Thanks to my wife’s influence, Maggie has become a bookworm and she likes to write. So Lydia and I wanted Magie to spend some time around Katie Couric, one of the most successful women in journalism. Modeling, after all, is so important for girls.
Katie’s interview with Jabari Parker took place in a church building that’s adjacent to the Mormon temple in New York City. It was fun to watch ABC convert a Mormon church into a virtual television studio.
Before the interview started, Katie invited Maggie to sit in her chair and face the camera, as if she were doing the interview. Seeing my little girl in Katie’s chair was like getting a surreal glimpse at the future. I’m not saying she will be a television correspondent some day. I’m talking about seeing her succeed in the big world.
Even more important, my daughter got to see herself in the big chair. Her eyes widened when she saw her face appear on the television monitor. It really matters how girls see themselves.
Then Katie taught Maggie something about interviewing people. “Never ask a question that can be answered yes or no,” she told Maggie.
Maggie nodded her head up and down.
“You know why?” Katie asked.
Maggie turned her head from side to side.
Katie explained that questions that can be answered with one word would make for a very boring interview. Better to ask a question that begins with the word why.
Maggie nodded her head up and down.
Maggie sat on the set as Katie interviewed Jabari. And she noticed that Katie asked lots of questions that began with why or how.
Eventually, Katie interviewed me for the Good Morning America segment. Maggie got a kick out of watching me get interviewed. After all, I’m just dad.
She also got to shoot baskets with Jabari Parker. When I lift Maggie over my head she can barely hoist a regulation size ball over a ten-foot rim. When Jabari lifts her up she can dunk.
“Jabari is nice, dad,” she told me.
I smiled. “Yes,” I said.
More than anything I want my daughters to be treated properly by boys. Jabari held Maggie’s hand, opened doors for her, helped her in and out of tax cabs, and looked out for her. Basically, he showed her what it means to be a gentleman. More modeling.
Who knows? Maybe Maggie will be a journalist someday.