Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview


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I started a group on Soundcloud about five months ago called “Listen” – I call it “a group for interviewers about interviewing”. It’s a place where people who do interviews can post them for me to critique. Constance A. Dunn started posting her interviews almost immediately. Constance is in the Balkans and she finds these fascinating people that she talks to “on the couch”.

I just finished listening to an interview she did with Bulgarian & Turkish Street Artist Metin of SK2. Constance’s interviews impress me because she has a very calm, conversational style and at the same time, she is relentless in her questioning. Two things impressed me about this particular interview. One is that she has the interviewer’s nightmare; a guest that answers in one word answers. That means she has to either have a list of questions as long as a parchment or be really creative and really listen to her guest so she can be constantly be coming up with new ones. The other is she has a technical problem with Skype that periodically makes Metin’s voice go in and out from beneath a gravel parking lot.

In both cases, Constance is professional. She peppers him with questions and coaxes him out to where, sometimes, you can hear his passion for his street art, until he clams up again. And technically, tells the listener a couple of times that, yes the quality may suffer, but it’s important to let him have all of his words.

I admire that especially. In this age of high tech equipment that guarantees us the highest, highest audio quality, we have all come to expect to hear sound better than our cilium can register. We’ve gotten spoiled by the gear. It used to be, when interviews were done over the phone, they sounded like phone conversations – static and all, and we were none the wiser. Now that so much of it is digital, or phone conversations take place in studios, the static from the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) is all gone and we think every conversation should be Memorex (glass breaking), Sprint (pin dropping) quality. And when there is the tiniest bit of distortion, hosts are quick to apologize, like it’s the ugly baby in the nursery.

But in life, we talk to people all the time who have diction problems, or are trying to talk to us over club music or jack hammers. It’s OK to have to do a little work to hear what someone is trying to say in not the best circumstances. Sometimes, if we really care about what they’re telling us, we bend out heads, turn our ears and strain a little.

Written by Interviewer

September 30, 2013 at 00:40

Posted in Scratchpad

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