Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Respect

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.

Keep ’em Flying

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This isn’t about interviewing.

There are many things about the airline industry I could criticize.  But one concept upon which they’re entire business model seems to be based is the idea that they get the most of our their machines by keeping them working as much as possible.

I think the same concept applies to people.  I knew a man with Cerebral Palsey who regularly rode the same bus I did.  He wore leg braces and a back brace.  He wore very thick glasses.  He was stooped and spoke with much difficulty.  But he got on that bus every morning like clockwork.  And he never got on it without saying “Good Morning” to everybody.  He was one of the most gentle and polite men I’d ever seen.  And I realized at that moment that if that man could go about his life, few of us have any excuse to not go about our own.

You hear all the time about people who say they are a threat, or a double threat or a triple threat.  I’m speaking, of course, about people who have had the opportunity to develop the skills they have into viable careers and lifestyles.  A singer who can also arrange music, or a mechanic who is also a certified plumber.  Of course, they’ve come to know what they know with help; they didn’t do it alone.  But they can do multiple things and they do them, as best as they can and to the extent that they can because they decided to.

None of us is without the will to live, to love or to succeed.  Although we exist on the good graces of others, we still choose who we let in and who we see as too dangerous to let in.  Over time, one may become the other.  That helps us edit who we truly owe for our success versus those who want us to owe them.  And when we fix ourselves on a goal, a star, it is our obligation to do all that we can to reach it.

So, for all the people who think they can’t do it, you can try.  That whole “Trying is Dying” bullshit is just that.  The one in the arena fighting the lion is the only opinion that matters.  And you don’t know if you’ll succeed at anything because life isn’t like that.  But if you don’t make the attempt, ie, to try, you let other people define you and you become a known quantity.  The motto of the Ohio Lottery used to be (and maybe still is), “You can’t win if you don’t play.”  If you don’t play, you become someone with no surprises.  You become predictable and to some extent, disrespected.

So, play hard.  Be a surprise and a threat.  You and your dreams? – Keep ’em Flying.

Written by Interviewer

March 18, 2013 at 03:42

It’s Not for Sissies

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I’ll be interviewing Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen Hunt.  They’re a marriage and family counseling couple that has been around forever.  They wrote “How to Get the Love you Want,” which was a groundbreaker in the 90s.  They almost lost their marriage to divorce.  So, you know one of the questions I’m going to ask is, “How does THAT happen?”  I expect it to be a good interview and you can expect it to be up before the weekend at my website,

Written by Interviewer

March 12, 2013 at 11:18

What is a “True Believer?”

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I met Zack at an Albertsons. The post explains the rest.

This isn’t about interviewing, although it could’ve been. The subject is probably near and dear to at least 150 million Americans. Maybe next time I’ll talk interviews.

True believers come in many forms. There are religious true believers. Sports true believers. Political true believers. There are true believers in family. True believers in our system of Capitalism. And, there are true believers in the United States of America.

What about employees who are true believers? I’m not talking about employees who are coerced into being true believers at the threat of losing their job if they’re not. And I’m not talking about employees who are the movers who shake everyone below them in an organization either. They can afford to be true believers and cheerleaders if they’re making the big bucks or have been given the power to push other people around.

I’m talking about true believers like Zack. Zack works for Coke, and I took his picture because I noticed something special about him. Look closely. See anything, unique? Zack isn’t a big wig. He didn’t ask me to take his picture. And it was Sunday, so it’s not like he had the luxury I did of being off work. .

What I noticed was that he was wearing shoes that exactly matched the colors in his shirt, the colors of his truck, the colors of every box of Coke product from the Pacific Ocean east to the Sea of Japan. I’ve seen lots of Coke delivery guys. They all wear the shirt but the shoes are always different. I guess Coke lets them pick they’re own shoes for comfort since they’re on all kinds of surfaces, all day long – jumping down, climbing up, huffing and hauling. Issuing shoes is probably an expense the company doesn’t want to have to bear.  Then again, for all I know, they do issue shoes. But this employee chose to pick these shoes for an extra reason.

They’re just shoes, right? Nope. They’re a small, spontaneous expression of loyalty by an employee that is trying to say how much he likes his job. He’s not sucking up to anybody. He’s not trying to get noticed. He’s just telling himself, “I’m in.”

This is the kind of thing every company, every federal agency, every non profit organization is dying to have; employees that care from the bottom up, from the inside out. This is the kind of thing they pay consultants millions of dollars to conduct months long studies to find.

But for many organizations, it’s elusive, like hunting for snipe. For many organizations, it doesn’t seem to exist at all and for some of them, it’s absent for a reason although they just can’t figure out why.  But maybe they should try opening an issue of Forbes, or Inc. or Harvard Business Review or Psychology Today, or practically any business tome between now and the 19th century and they might get a clue.

If bureaucracies beat workers down with policy letters and punitive actions, if they passive aggressively punish passion and initiative, if they use HR like a cudgel to compensate for their managerial cowardice and inadequacy, then they won’t see stuff like this. What they’ll see instead is employees that are “retiring in place.” They’ll see employees who would rather run through the door when their time is up than suffer fake supervisory appreciation that is less felt and more farce.  What they’ll get, year after year, are employee satisfaction surveys that put them squarely below average … surveys that say, they as bosses, suck. And they’ll deserve it.

Because, the thing is, lots of organizations have employees who are true believers.  And they kill them.

Zack is a Coke man down to his kicks. Coke, this is your public face. It got my attention. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.  I might drink your cola, but I’ll definitely notice your workers.

Written by Interviewer

March 9, 2013 at 11:55