Dean Nelson

Earlier this year the San Diego Union-Tribune had me as a guest on its podcast called Name Drop San Diego. They called me a “Journalism Guru” in the headline. The timing of the program was two-fold: 1). the interview Oprah did with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had just been broadcast, and since I literally wrote the book (or a book) about interviewing (you know about my book “Talk To Me,” right? the hosts wanted my take on how the interview went. Fair enough. I watched the interview and was ready to discuss and evaluate Oprah’s methods. She’s good! 2). Our annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea was about to occur. Because of the pandemic, the writers we had scheduled agreed to wait until 2022, so the Symposium focused on some of the great writing occurring on the campus where I teach.

Part of what made this podcast so much fun was that one of the hosts, Abby Hamblin, had been a student of mine in our journalism program, and I had several classes with her. Being interviewed by someone I had taught was a great experience.

But what has stayed with me since the podcast was a question Abby asked me. She and her co-host Kristy Totten had already asked me what story I had worked on that was the most bizarre, and that was an easy one — while hiking and backpacking in Tibet I witnessed a ritual that is called a “sky burial.”

The question Abby asked as a follow up, though, is the one that surprised me. She asked me to tell what story I had worked on that had moved me the most. I was surprised at how emotional I got right away, even though the story I described happened 20 years ago.

So this podcast is about interviewing. But it was the interviewer’s unexpected question that took me back to an experience that shook me to my core. So, who was the guru after all?

Here’s the podcast: