We Summer 2015 interns (Jake, Lora, Sunder, Jen, Avneet, Collin, Rachelle, and Claire), as the most productive ADST interns of all time, have been given the difficult task of putting what made us so successful in writing. Certainly some of our success can be attributed to the ADST culture that Chris creates: a relaxed, honest, trusting, genuinely enjoyable working environment.
Some of it can also be credited to the camaraderie we had that made our days working together much more fun; we all got along very well and hung out outside of work together (we appointed Lora as Community Liaison Officer, which we unofficially nicknamed High Commissioner of Fun).
But the main factor behind our productivity was our ability to research effectively. Here are some of the tactics we used to pump out Moments at a record pace:
Return to Inside Foggy Bottom
Go to Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History
Do your dates
— Chris will give you a set of dates to find “Today in History” posts. The Wikipedia pages for specific dates are incredibly helpful for finding events to base Moments on.
Make sure it has not already been done!
— Use the search bar on the ADST website (top right of every page). Nothing worse than doing research on something only to find out we already have a Moment on it.
Know how to spot a dud
— Some great ideas just do not work as Moments. Sometimes all the information we have on a subject is repetitive, sometimes there is not enough to form a narrative, sometimes a story just is not as interesting as you expected it to be. Sometimes the interviewer does not ask the follow-up questions you hoped. (Do NOT get me started on the time someone said “I was very involved in that massacre at the airport” and no one thought that deserved more explanation.)
When short of ideas, search random words that may lead to something interesting
— Mainstays like “massacre,” “coup,” “warlord,” and “Communists” are always good, but try and get more creative. We have done Moments that came from searches like “seduction,” “wives,” “witch doctor,” “tennis,” and “Star Wars.” There’s also this handy-dandy page from the State Department that lists all the major terrorist attacks from 1961-2003. Also, go beyond just events. Past interns have done Moments on people you don’t normally associate with foreign affairs, like Michael Jackson.
Do not be afraid to ping-pong around
— If you find a potential Moment idea while researching another, write it down! Bounce between ideas, or use dead-ends as jumping off points to others. If you find something interesting in an oral history, bookmark it! (OK, we didn’t understand Jake’s ocelot reference from Archer either, until we saw this.)
Find a name or place strongly associated with the event
— If you find a name, slogan, or place associated with an event (for example, Winston Lord and Kissinger’s secret negotiations with China), search it and run with it
Make compilation pieces
— Sometimes there is not enough in each individual story to make a Moment, but there are enough different ones with a common theme. We did pieces on honeypots, wives gone wild, and diplomatic immunity, for example.