The ND in my first job interview threw an interesting question at me. Luckily someone from my alma mater warned me it was coming, so I knew how to answer. The question: What hobbies do you have besides following the news? (Reading was not good enough by the way.) He wanted you to be passionately interested in something very different. The reason? This ND felt living and breathing news, and only news, actually made you lose touch with the viewer. He would not hire you if you said: “I just love my job! All I think about is news.” Several of us wondered why it was such a big deal to him?
Several jobs later I finally realized just how much sense it makes. I was helping to design a new newscast. We wanted to target a key audience with very specialized sections of content. The GM looked at me and said: “So what do your friends talk about? Can you put together a focus group for us?” I couldn’t. I realized that all of my friends were newsies. I worked 65+ hours a week and I was completely out of touch with the “real” world. I had let my hobbies go by the wayside. I literally thought about news from my waking moment until I fell asleep. I would even sometimes wake up in the middle of dreams about my newscasts.
That’s when I realized to be truly good at my job I had to develop other interests. I started by reading several non-news magazines and taking exercise classes. When you get married and have kids, there are natural ways to broaden your interests as well. But no matter what stage of life you are in, do something regularly that does not involve news. Do things that help you develop relationships with people who could care less what you do for a living. You will be a better journalist because of it and it might also save you one day with an unconventional question in a job interview!