Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘preparation

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ISIS Syria 2

I just heard an interview where the interviewer was talking with someone who left Syria just before the group ISIS (or Da’ish) began their campaign of retributive kidnappings and murders.  The interviewer asked why they stopped their humanitarian efforts of distributing blankets.  It was a confusing question since the interview centered around the worsening conditions for aid workers in recent years as well as the just confirmed death of aide worker Kayle Jean Mueller of Prescott, Arizona.  To a listener, it would make perfect sense why the worker stopped providing that aid and the question would’ve probably seemed unnecessary.

But in the follow up question, the interviewer asked the former aid worker if they were naïve for going to Syria in the first place.  Again, it was a strange question since, as the worker pointed out much earlier in the interview, conditions were very different at the beginning of the conflict and distributing the aid was both easier and more accepted by local authorities.

Perhaps, as is the practice of many interviewers, this is an example of covering all of the bases by playing “devils advocate”.  But to me, it’s less that than of the interviewer not listening to the answers or thinking through the history of a subject when preparing for the conversation.  These kind of questions are maddening because poor preparation or inattention by the interviewer can confuse a good topic and a cogent interviewee and leave the listener with no clear takeaway.

I’ve talked about this before; questions that dilute or miss the point.  It happens.  I just wish it happened a little less often.

Written by Interviewer

February 11, 2015 at 01:47

Painful

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Just so you know, that’s what a live forum can be if you don’t have the time to properly prepare.  I am still wincing a little.  Tonight was the first of three candidate forums with legislative, executive branch and  congressional candidates in advance of Oregon’s primary election on May 20th.

Eight legislative candidates came.  The board op was great.  The timer was great.  The news director was great.  But at a community radio staton, there is no overabundance of support staff.  So a lot that gets done has to be done by the person who has the original idea.  In this case, that would be me.

That is fine, unless, as my old relatives used to say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”.  In other words, if you’re trying to do more than you’re able.  And in my case, it was trying to do everything perfectly and forgetting to write an intro script for myself.

The simplest thing in the world.  Just a couple of sentences to set the whole thing up and get out the first question.  But running into the studio, with a whole bunch of little snafus leading up to the red light going on left me with not even a couple minutes to scribble out anything but the briefiest of notes to me.

Which is fine, but people who’ve been in journalism their whole life rely partly on ad-libbing and partly on the written word.  And sometimes, if the written word isn’t there (scribbling doesn’t always count), the ad-libbing isn’t either.  Sometimes, under duress, you can’t read your own writing.

So my first minutes of the live forum was me thrashing around for my thoughts because I didn’t have time to give me a good opening.  I eventually hooked onto my focus, like some wildly swinging grappling hook that finds a piece of chain link fence.  After that, I can admit the rest of the forum went pretty well.  But of course, that’s not enough.

I will listen to the forum because it’ll remind me to never let such a flub happen again.  Thing is though, in my past, other stuff just as unsatisfying has happened, and more than once.  It’s called experience.   My peers would say, let it go. They’re right. I can laugh about it later.  Newsrooms pass around DVDs of bloopers that the public never sees of some of the most embarrassing shit ever.  So, I’m in good company.   I’ll chalk it up too.  But for now, ow.

It was a reminder to be better.

It was a booster shot.

Written by Interviewer

April 29, 2014 at 11:48