Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘personality

Falling In Love Again

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As a journalist, when you talk to someone you end up liking, either because of their work or their personality, it can be painful to hear later that they have gotten involved in some kind of personal or organizational scandal.  At that point, you have a choice – you can either try to talk with them again to find out what happened and give them a forum to tell their side of the story, or you can not talk to them because you don’t want to seem like you’re piling on.  A journalist will tend to do the first even though to the subject, it can feel like the second which is why they may not choose to talk to you.  Then, the journalist might feel like, “I like you, but are you hiding something?” which can lead to, “Were you honest with me when we first talked?” which tends to turn on the nose.

This is how skepticism forms and the reason why so many journalists have so much of it.  So each time a journalist interviews someone new, there is this push and pull.  Distance from a subject is a professional necessity of the job.  And although we may not like someone personally, we may admire what they do professionally.  Or we may not like the work they do but think they are peachy-keen.  Of course, we try to keep these feelings to ourselves.  But if we like what they do or who they are and they end up in or near bad stuff, it can be hard to not feel a little disappointed or betrayed.

Each new face, new story, new personality sings to us because we tell stories by listening to stories.  To tell it well, we have to know it well and that can draw us in.  Every time we turn on the mic, we can fall in love again.

Damn it!

Written by Interviewer

January 25, 2015 at 02:09

The “X” Interview

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I’m starting to think that interviews fall into one of five categories; the great, the good, the OK, the questionable and the bad.

The great is when everything goes well AND the conversation is one that neither person wants to end. The interviewee says “Great Question” a couple times. No technical problems, great answers … an interviewer’s Nirvana.

The good is you might have one or two small problems and you are prepared to quickly deal with them without breaking stride. Meanwhile the other person is good natured, engaged and generous with their time.

The OK is where you have a few unexpected hitches that come up during the course of the interview and but you fix them with very little distraction and with the patience and forgiveness by the guest. You pull it out of a possible fire. Or you have an interviewee that is somewhat engaged and knows they are doing the interview to promote something. They are pleasant and you come away patting yourself on the back a little.

The questionable is when you have technical problems you are dealing with during the interview that won’t go away, or you run out of research time and aren’t satisfied with your list of questions. Also, in this category might be an interviewee who doesn’t really want to talk, but is committed to because somebody else set the interview up, or because they really need ALL of the publicity they can get, even if they’re not necessarily excited about it. It’s in this interview where personalities might not click and you’re not sure, but you wonder if you’re periodically being insulted by an interviewee that would really rather be doing something else.

And the bad is as bad and as wrong and as the great is great. The equipment breaks and you have to reschedule, or go to a undesirable, technical Plan B. Or the interviewee is very late, unapologetic or openly hostile. Here is where you plow through because it’s one of those times when you remind yourself that you’re a professional. This is where you earn a stripe and think, “OK, statistically, I had this bad one, so how long will I go before I get another bad one?”

Yep, that all sounds about right.

Written by Interviewer

August 28, 2013 at 12:03