I dreaded the thought of a three-hour class when I registered, but Bob Pollock’s journalism class seemed intriguing.
I was a sophomore at Southern Connecticut State College (now university), thinking about a journalism career but not exactly sure. Pollock’s class would be my second class in journalism, but my curiosity about the profession was barely able to stretch as far as a three-hour class in the evening.
I needn’t have worried. He came into that classroom, sat on the desk and told stories from his career as editor of the Ansonia Sentinel, a small newspaper that was later swallowed by a larger one.
He enthralled us with a spectrum of stories: redemption, revenge, love. I was hooked and ready to tell my own.
Well, I thought I was. That was why I was the student and he was the teacher.
He assigned us to do a profile story. I thought that should be easy — find a person, ask some questions and write what that person said.
I don’t even remember the person I wrote about. I just remember what Pollock wrote on my story. Next to a fairly awkward quote, he wrote, “Is that what he meant?”
I confirmed the quote’s accuracy in my notes and spoke to him after class. But Pollock didn’t even look at the notes that I showed him. He said it was not about literal accuracy.
“Is that what he meant?” he asked. “Because I didn’t understand it, and it wasn’t consistent with the other stuff he said.”
I told him that I couldn’t read the guy’s mind to know his intent. He asked whether the quote struck me as weird when I wrote it, and I admitted it did, a tad uncomfortable with the slowly growing realization of my idiocy.
“How do you expect your readers to make sense of it?” Pollock asked as I eyed the door.
He told me that I had two responsibilities. One was the duty to the reader, who was expecting a story as close to truth and clarity as I could deliver. The other was to the subject himself.
“This person placed quite a bit of trust in you,” Polock said. “His life story is in your hands. How would you feel if you were that person and a college kid were writing about you?”
I didn’t have to answer. He just told me to give him a new version by the next week. Lesson learned.
Our New Profiles
We have a feature starting this month called In The Field, which profiles a person of distinction each month. We don’t have firm rules on who can be a subject. In fact, our first profile is of two people, sisters, who represent the past and future of insurance — Carina Hatfield and Trisha May.
InsuranceNewsNet Managing Editor Susan Rupe met the sisters at NAIFA-Pennsylvania’s annual meeting. I say “met,” but she already knew of the sisters and their father from her days as that association’s communications director.
The sisters are the picture of hope for the insurance industry. Their grandfather started in the business in the middle of the 20th century when many insurance sales were door to door. Their father grew the practice into a business — a business the sisters didn’t want any part of.
They pursued their own lives after getting out of school. As their dad helped his agency evolve into a full-service Nationwide operation, Hatfield eventually realized that insurance was perfect for her. She started working for her father and recruited her sister.
They represent the future of insurance not only because they are young women in a traditionally male business but also because they realize that financial service is an important part of the mix. Anything less is not full service anymore.
If the future is independent advisors, Nationwide is pushing the agency into it because the company is moving to an independent advisor model. That means by the middle of 2020, more than 2,000 agents will no longer be selling under the Nationwide umbrella.
The sisters and their agency will track closely to the rest of the industry. Will they even consider themselves an insurance agency or will they be an agency that happens to sell insurance?
How About You?
As I said, we haven’t set firm rules on the people we will feature. We know we want agents of change. We want people who are making a difference in the insurance industry and can help all of us understand the direction of change.
If you know of someone who fits this description, let us know. Send us a note to [email protected]
and write PROFILE in the subject line.
Or perhaps it is you. What is your story?
Susan Rupe also wrote about storytelling this month. We know stories are central to insurance sales.
I have always known agents to be excellent storytellers. They wrap a tale around the truth that all families need some level of protection against the unknown. Tell us your truth, and we will tell it to everyone else.
That was what I learned from Bob Pollock all those years ago. Eventually, I transferred to Syracuse University for its journalism program. But despite the excellent teachers at SU, they were not the ones who passed along the essence of what we do in journalism — and what you do in advising.
We don’t tell stories for stories’ sake. We tell truths that need to be told. What is your truth?