NUVO's Ballard interview; who is Scott Shoger?

Dateline: Thu 15 Nov 2007

Mayoral-elect Greg Ballard has gotten plenty of press since he won the Indianapolis race, but the interview that many think is the best is the current NUVO Q and A. It's by Scott Shoger, a 24-year-old editorial intern at the alternative weekly.

Why is this piece so good? Ballard himself says, a couple of times, "nobody has asked me that before..." This is especially in regard to Ballard's military background and his thoughts on veterans, but in general Ballard comes across as nuanced.

After I learned a great deal more about Ballard, I wondered: who is this Shoger? How did a guy from the liberal weekly get the Republican Marine to open up so much? Is NUVO hiring Gulf War vets now?

Nope, just good, thoughtful reporters. NUVO managing editor Jim Poyser says Shoger is a recent graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington, where he majored in comparative literature. Poyser adds that he almost did not interview Shoger for a NUVO internship because Shoger "had very little in the way of experience, journalism courses, clips, etc."

"But one meeting was enough to impress," says Poyser. Shoger, he adds, was the first on NUVO's editorial team to volunteer to interview Ballard.

I emailed Shoger and asked him about his preparation and thought process on the assignment. After all, there's nothing more basic in journalism than conducting an interview. Shoger seems a master of it. Here's what he had to say about doing his homework:

"I formulated the questions after meeting with some the editorial staff at Nuvo last Friday (David Hoppe, Jim Poyser, Laura McPhee) and discussing with them what we want to find out about Greg Ballard, both as a person and a politician, if those can be separated. After crafting the questions over the weekend, I took a look at the Star's interview and tried to avoid asking about the same things; I didn't ask anything about the arts, for instance, although that's an interest for Nuvo, because the Star already has him on record on cultural issues.

"I only zeroed in on military issues because they seem particularly relevant to Ballard's background; they did turn out to be questions that he was particularly gratified to hear, and he opened up a bit more when I asked them. If he had spent 20 years in Burma, or had a fervent interest in sculpture, I would have wanted to know how those experiences had an impact on his life.

"I'm 24, and I chose to intern at NUVO because I wanted to find a

locally-owned and produced newspaper where I could get some experience writing in a different environment than college.

"I didn't study journalism or write much at the school paper, so I'm catching up in a way, but I have done quite a bit of work on the radio, both disk-jockeying and doing interviews, in both Indianapolis and Bloomington."

I also asked Shoger about what reaction he's getting to the Ballard piece.

"Most people I've spoken to are simply pleased to have a little more information about Ballard; personally, this interview augments the picture

that I have formed of him through reading what he's posted on his websites, and through his interviews with the Star and the IBJ. So, for those that I've spoken to that haven't read anything else about him, all the information was new for them, and drew a sketch of him on a blank canvas; for others that have already read a little something about him, I hope I asked questions in a new way that either drew out more specific responses and a little more about his personality, or were specifically worded enough to indicate that he's not ready to answer detailed inquiries on some issues.

"..For the interview with Ballard, I just tried to do justice to my subject and ask questions that are on peoples' minds."

Good read.


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