People don’t get heard as much as they’d like. It was a great realization for me as a writer that people really want to be listened to. They are surprised that someone is interested, really interested. And you have to really want to hear somebody. A big part of it is tapping people’s natural desire to be listened to, especially since they know they’ll never have to deal with you again. It’s the same principle that underlies therapy, confession, conversations with strangers on airplanes: it’s a kind of duty-free intimacy that people really crave. If you can provide it without tricking people — because it’s not duty-free; it gets published — you can tap into that incredible appetite. It’s more appealing to talk with someone you’ll never know. It’s almost like talking out loud to yourself. And there is no limit to how unnoticed people feel by the media. It’s just the nature of what is considered newsworthy. If a person is living a life that is not newsworthy, it’s appealing to have someone say, “I want to hear your story.” Most people say, “Really, really? You really want to hear?” And people have amazing stories.

Susan Orlean

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