Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hannah Dreyfus: Asking All the Right Questions

Hannah Dreyfus’ motto is simple: It never hurts to ask. 

And with three journalism internships under her belt and a Princeton fellowship on the horizon, it seems to be working quite well for the 21-year-old senior from Stern College.

“Don’t be scared to put yourself out there,” Dreyfus said. “Freshman year I asked the editor-in-chief halfway through the year to be an editor instead of her asking me. They don’t usually do that.”

Dreyfus’ natural curiosity makes her internship at Parade a perfect fit. Because Parade has a small staff, Dreyfus interviews several sources for the print and digital editions of the magazine. 

“That’s my favorite part of journalism,” Dreyfus said. “I just love asking questions. I like people and I’m just naturally curious.”

While Parade offers exciting opportunities to interview celebrities, like Tim Gunn and Rosario Dawson, Dreyfus maintains she felt more nervous about her first interview as an intern for The Jewish Week, the largest Jewish newspaper in the New York metro area. She laughed about how she prepared questions three days in advance and spent an hour and a half writing down every detail the source said.

“It was a very patient source,” she said.

While working for The Jewish Week (another position she got by asking), Dreyfus honed her reporting and interviewing skills. Dreyfus said the small staff of six reporters took her under its wing, offering extensive feedback.

“I remember the first story I got back had red all over it. Everything was wrong and I just had to breathe in and say, ‘I’m here to learn, I’m not here to have it right,’” Dreyfus said.

Meanwhile, Dreyfus said she found her personal voice as a writer at her school’s newspaper, The Observer. After asking her way to the position of features editor, Dreyfus continued to write opinions as she climbed the editorial ladder. Next semester she looks forward to serving as editor-in-chief.

Current managing editor of The Observer and classmate Yael Farzan said she knew of Dreyfus’ writing before meeting her.

“She’s an unbelievable writer. She is extremely enthusiastic, driven and focused on making her opinion known,” Farzan said as she described one of Dreyfus’ articles about body piercing that shocked the school.

Dreyfus said her love of writing has helped her explore another passion: her Jewish identity.

“I’ve been able to speak to my specific community about trying to be proud about your religion while never closing yourself off to anything else,” she said.

This summer Dreyfus continues to balance her two passions of journalism and Jewish studies. She will leave Parade a week early to participate in the Tikvah Fellowship of Jewish Studies and Philosophy at Princeton.

While Dreyfus said she’s looking forward to discussing Jewish scripture, history and politics with 40 other fellows, she also doesn’t want her time at Parade to end.

“That’s how you know it was a good internship,” Dreyfus said.

And her future?

“They don’t know this yet, but I think I’m going to ask if I can intern there in the fall.”

Written by Katie Macdonald, Louisiana State University, Reader's Digest
Edited by Kristin Canning, Wartburg College, SELF 

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