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Read His Work:

Michael Waters

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I’m very concerned that I’m developing a reputation as the person who knows too much trivia about the funeral industry.

 

Against all logic, my internships at the Smithsonian Magazine and the Washington Monthly this summer have encouraged me to become obsessed with the sorts of things that I never thought a person would care about: from federal employees who worked as paid taste testers in the 20th century to the ongoing battle that corporate funeral homes have waged against online shopping, I have gotten to dive into reporting some of the more offbeat undercurrents of our past and present.

 

In theory, I probably shouldn’t be in journalism. I can be unbelievably shy, so much so that I’ve become an expert at pretending to be fascinated by the shade of the wall at awkward social events. A couple years ago, when I first tried reporting, I was so terrified of calling up strangers and asking them about their lives that I worked at all costs to avoid it. For those earliest stories, which luckily will not see the light of day, I tried to finesse entire articles out of only email interviews.

 

Yet I can’t tear myself away from journalism. I love researching the most marginal parts of our world and finding ways to make it feel relevant to people. There aren’t enough reporters out there, which means that the task can feel both terrifying in its enormity and thrilling in that it has no endpoint. There is always something more to discover, something overlooked that is driving our culture or politics or lives. I’m lucky that this summer I had the chance to put together some of those stories of my own.

 

(Also, I’ve since forced myself to pick up the phone and call strange people, so thankfully that bit is all settled.)