Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Is There One …

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Interviewers are no different than anybody else.  They sometimes like shortcuts.  Like those “Top Ten” lists that the Late Show with David Letterman helped make famous, these lists are crib notes for what is the hottest, most talked about and supposedly, most important things on people’s minds at the moment.  So when an interviewer asks someone to give them the top five, or three or one “thing” as it refers to a person or a situation, guests as a way of showing how on top of things they are, are quick to oblige.  I have never heard one not accommodate the question.

Until today.

Marco Werman of PRI’s “The World” was talking with Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute, a journalistic school in St. Petersburg, Florida.  They were both talking about three-time Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Michel du Cille, who died of a heart attack this week in Liberia while on assignment for the Washington Post.  Mr. du Cille was chronicling Ebola patients when he passed away.  And in an earlier interview with his Post colleagues, Mr. du Cille said he was excited to go to Liberia because he felt he had “a responsibility to tell the story and we have a responsibility to tell the story in a poignant and respectful and dignified way”.

During the course of the conversation, Mr. Werman and Mr. Irby talked about the various other human tragedies Mr. du Cille covered and how he treated all of the people he photographed with dignity and respect.  At the end of the interview, Mr. Werman went to the interviewer’s default; “Is there one of his photographs that will always define who Michel du Cille was as a photographer?”  And Mr. Irby answered honestly and refreshingly.

“No, there are numerous photo galleries of Michel’s work in my mental photo album and I think it would be unfair to try to identify one single frame out of an individual whose life has been committed to documenting the experiences, both horiffic and the harmonious experiences.  It’s interesting that you see his body of work and he was able to show hope in hard times and in dark places as well as the tragedy.”

I sometimes wonder what is the intent of smashing something so big into a space so little.

A life uncompressed for a change.

I like it.

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