Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘babies

Paying Tribute

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Boxing Gloves

Listening to the tributes pour in for Muhammed Ali earlier this year, I was thinking about what kind of person gets tributes.

I wonder if the first type of person doesn’t necessarily seek tributes.  Instead, as they follow their passion, they come up against people who don’t like what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, why they’re doing it or even who they are.  But they continue to follow their passion to do whatever it is they’re doing even as they both gain admirers and haters.  These people are eventually recongized for being the best at what they’ve done not only because their passion has honed that perfection, but because they’ve done it in the face of those who hate everything about them.  And a key element seems to be that a lot of people must hate them.

A segment of our culture reserves the highest rewards for those who not only surmount the professional obstacles, but almost as important, overcomes the obstacle of the rest of us.

Meanwhile, I wonder if the second type of person seeks tributes and doesn’t have any shame in how they get them or who gives them.  Whether it means being the loudest black, women, jew, hispanic, muslim, lgbt or homeless hater, or whether it means doing hurtful things to those people in the dark, or whether it means always “Me first”, this second type of person is about expediency, not morality.  What is the quickest way they can be known for something, since to that point they may have never been seen or known or acknowledged for anything.  They will twist all we supposedly call sacred into a banal justification of every perversion just so they can feel people are paying attention to them.  A key element is that they seem to need a lot of people to notice them.

A segment of our culture reveres these people too because evil is easy and cruel is pile-on fun.  Burn a church, deface a monument, spray obscenities, slash some tires and they can feel alive and not the weak, festering lump they are locked inside.

I’ve often thought about the concept of First Cause, and I haven’t yet heard a good argument that counters the thinking that every good thing we humans conceive is a response to something hideous we thought of first.  All the non-profits, corrective laws and religous edicts that we employ to fix our failings always seem to be in pursuit of, not in front of on par with, those failings.  It makes me wonder which is easiest for us to be; kind or cruel?

What are we?

Muhammed Ali’s first cause was, reportedly, to become a boxer because he wanted revenge for a stolen bike and a cop told him to channel that anger to the ring.  As he was laid to rest, a lifetime of good wiped out that incentive of anger.  But his work was consistent, not the two steps forward, one step back, constantly relearning kind – constantly unlearning bigorty wheel we seem to be stuck on.  I wonder why the world is never lacking for people who carry their fear and hate like a cold stone at the center of their chests with no goal but to be the best thing they can be, even if that thing is putrid.

When I feel a little overwhelmed like this, and I need a little hope, I think … Thank God for babies.

Written by Interviewer

August 15, 2016 at 23:58

Clap Clap Clap

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Baby Clapping

You know that thing adults do with babies, when they clap with a clapping baby and the baby gets excited so it claps too?  You can hear something like that happen sometimes in interviews.  A guest is explaining something of significance to them and their voice jumps in excitement or it becomes animated in some way.  That’s a good thing.  You want your guest to be excited about whatever it is they’re talking about.  What’s not so good is when the interviewer responds in a way that can sound contrived.  You’ve heard it.  Person A is describing something they care about and person B, not wanting to seem unenthusiastic, mirrors their excitement when it’s clear they’re aren’t excited at all.

I wish interviewers wouldn’t do this.  And I don’t doubt that they probably wish they hadn’t done it the moment they do it.  But it’s understandable why they do it.  Reflecting the tone of voice and body language of the person you’re talking to are techniques not just of interviews but of good communication in general.  Humans are basic in that we want to feel an affinity with whom we’re sharing space and feelings.  So in a lot of ways, when we’re telling our own story, we’re not much different than that happy baby.  We just want to see a smiling face smiling back at us, affirming us.  But to the listener, it can sound like the investment isn’t so deep.

To me, this can be one of those dangers of interviewing, like a scratchy microphone or a hum that won’t go away.  Because as I’ve said before, the interview is a three way between you, the guest and the audience.  And even if the guest doesn’t hear the flatness in an interviewer’s effort to sound up, the audience certainly will.  And if it keeps happening, the audience will start to question the interviewer’s sincerity.

So if it’s happening, what can an interviewer do to fix it?  If they know they do it, they can maybe ask themselves is it just this guest, or have they hit a rut in their interviewing style?  If it’s the guest, maybe they can look for something the guest does that truly excites them.  Asking about that thing during the course of the conversation might help recharge the interviewer so that their questions and enthusiasm sound sincere.  But if it’s something they find themselves doing in all of their interviews, maybe they’ve hit a wall.  Maybe they’ve gotten a little bored.

A way they can try to fix it is to use a trick proofreaders are told catch mistakes; read the text backwards, starting at the period.  This turns the idea of reading on its head and causes one to pay a lot more attention.  Likewise, interviewers who are sounding tired can ask other interviewers to interview them for a change.  It’s a way to rediscover their own excitement for what they do as well as be the one doing the sharing.  Who knows, maybe they might be surprised to find some of it is even enthusiastic.

Written by Interviewer

December 9, 2014 at 10:30

For All of the Unsung People

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Unsung means, people for whom a song is not sung.  With all of the tributes made and libations poured to all of the people in the center of the light, there are people who are never seen, never known but without whom, nothing would happen.  I don’t know why this makes me emotional, but fortunately, it doesn’t affect my typing.  Here is a short list of all of the people who, especially at this time of year, need to be remembered.

Pilots who fly through some of the worst weather of the year to take millions of people to their destinations.  When the seat belt light comes on, the pilot is about to engage in a very personal conversation with nature.  Yes, they get paid to do their jobs, but their job is to carry lives, legacies, babies, pets, pictures, fruitcakes, messages and futures.  And don’t forget about the ground crews, the baggage handlers, the mechanics, the flight attendants, the customer service people.

Ambulance drivers who carry people about to enter life and people about to leave it.  And the EMT’s who hold the hand of people scared of dying and people scared of living. And don’t forget the Emergency Room Technicians, nurses, front desk people, medical technicians, doctors, nurses who see the worst on what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

Police who will be patrolling the streets when most of us are asleep, away from their own families.  Or maybe they’re walking up unfamiliar stairs, rounding dark corners or entering hostile bars to arrest someone or contain someone or pursue someone.  And don’t forget their families; wives, kids, cousins, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers who hope their own father or son or mother or daughter will come home in time for some turkey or to unwrap a present or bounce a baby on their knee.  Also, don’t forget deputies, sheriffs, dispatchers and 911 operators.

Firefighters who, no matter how cold or miserable the weather, will gear up and run to a raging fire to protect property or save lives.  They will enter burning buildings with oxygen tanks and carrying extraction equipment and they will search for lost, afraid and dying people and pull them out.  Or they will open wrecked cars like sardine cans overturned in ditches to try to save people who made a simple, life changing mistake so they can have another chance.  To all of the firefighters and their families.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard.  I think of Coast Guard especially since a friend of mine has just moved to an island in the Aleutian Islands and the Coast Guard regularly sends helicopters and ships into raging seas to rescue people.  Soldiers walking point, sailors on an aircraft carrier, airmen working a flight line, marines advancing on a position – all far from home.  And don’t forget the veterans, as well as the active duty and reserve cooks, the admin people, the military police, the military doctors and nurses, the supply and warehouse people, the truck drivers and mechanics and their families.

Highway maintenance people who will be out plowing, salting or sanding roads in some of the most remote, God-awful places at all times of the day and night in the worst winter weather you can imagine. And if they’re not trying to keep it clear, they are trying to open up a section of highway that has just been damaged by an overturned semi-tractor trailer and it’s dropped load of railroad ties or beehives or salad dressing. And if they’re not trying to clear a road of debris, they’re trying to finish construction on a piece of road so the traffic can move faster. They hold slow down signs that people can’t read because they’re flying past them too fast. They wear colored vests but they still have to jump out of the way sometimes because some people are in a hurry. Fortunately, there is usually a fast police interceptor not too far away. And don’t forget the line and tree workers restringing downed power lines and knocking ice off trees.

Pastors, Bishops, Rabbis, Imans, Reverends, Ministers … men and women of God who leave their doors open when most others are closed this time of year.  These people are  dedicated to trying to help the lost navigate through a not always easy life by listening, holding, and helping as much as they can, as much as they are allowed.  And don’t forget about the soup kitchens, the secret givers, the missions, the volunteers, the drivers, the sorters and the warehouse workers.

Reporters, anchors, weather forecasters.  These people tell us about closed roads and bad skies and deep water.  They are running around a near empty building at wee hours of the morning all over the world so we can wake up knowing what’s been going on.  And don’t forget the camera operators, master control, technical directors, audio directors, news directors, city desk editors, photographers.

Veterinarians and people who run shelters of all kinds. For animals that have been abused or lost or hurt, who are alone and frightened; these people search for them, find them, take them in and care for them and try to heal them or reunite them with their families. This kind of selflessness without a doubt belongs on this list.

Disaster relief workers overseas including Doctors without Borders and the International Red Cross among so many others. For people in the South Sudan, in Syria, in Egypt, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Uganda. People for whom hope is at the whim of a despot who tortures or disappears beloved family members, these organizations and their volunteers risk their lives and sometimes lose their lives to bring food, medicine and hope to people in the spirit of “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men”.

Prisoners, inmates and their jailers. Being incarcerated is antithetical to what it means to be a human being. Sadly, many people have made choices that have put them under the control of the State. But the state is not guiltless and in many cases, it’s own mistakes have led to the unjust incarceration of hundreds, maybe thousands. Still, to be institutionalized is to be invisible and forgotten. So for the people who wish for a second chance but will never get it and the people on the verge of getting that second chance as well as the guards that must watch, control and discipline those inmates whether they want to or not, you are not forgotten.

Entertainers of all kinds, because these people are notoriously nomads and without steady income. Whether in community theater, on Broadway or at a cattle call, musicians, actors, artists work through the holidays since their Black Friday always seems to be about six months ahead of them. They are always running to the next gig, the next audition, the next tryout looking for a reason to believe the hard work they’ve put in on their music, their technique, their moves will land them something steady and something they and the they people they love can be proud of. There will be a lot of them on stages around the world during the holidays, hoping.

Prostitutes because many many women around the world are forced into prostitution and not only outside of the United States. They have children. They have bills. And they have dangers most of us can’t conceive. Yes, there are social service programs for them and their families. But for all of the “respectable people” who can’t leave their situation, no matter what it is for whatever reason, it is no easier for prostitutes to leave theirs. Also don’t forget enslaved domestic workers, the sex-trafficked, the addicted and the homeless.

Store clerks, stock boys, bus and taxi drivers, park rangers, highway patrol officers, 24-hour IT support people, tow truck drivers, credit and debit card customer support, the mail carrier, the package delivery driver, plumbers on call, roofers on call, HVAC on call, electricians on call, hotel workers, restaurant workers,… yes, we pay for these people either directly or indirectly.  But when we need them, they come and not always because they have to and not always just for the money.  What would it be like to to be someone who helped save someone’s Christmas or a family memory?

There are SOOOOO many people we forget who do what they have to do while the rest of us hope for another memorable holiday.  They must not be forgotten.  We must not forget them.

Maybe you’re one of these people.  If you are, thank you for providing. Thank you for protecting. Thank you for enduring.

If you can add to this list, please do.