“Thank you again for agreeing to speak with me this morning,” I said hunching over my phone that was placed on speaker. I was eyeing the time on the free recording app that ran in the background on my laptop. “I really appreciate it.”
“No, thank you,” Susan Surftone, former FBI agent turned famous female surf guitarist responded. Her cool and confident voice had echoed from the speaker of my phone. “I really enjoyed your questions.”
I laughed a little and responded with an awkward, “thank you.” Susan had been interviewed by many publications before about her amazing backstory, and so my goal in this particular interview was to shift the focus and include elements about herself and her past that hadn’t been covered before. I wanted some different quotes and wanted to add more of her views and opinions on some hard pressing issues that were relevant to today’s political climate.
We ended up concluding the interview on a high note, said our goodbyes, and then hung up the phone. I stopped the recording and made sure that I had a copy of the file in the cloud. I couldn’t help but think back to my first year working at my university’s paper and figuring out how to conduct an interview for a story.
There were nerves galore and bits of panic that arose as I fumbled with my brand new digital recorder that I had traded with my roommate for another electronic device. I barely knew how to use it and wasn’t prepared to ask the right questions. I purchased gotten the recording device after accidentally deleting a recording on my phone. I was left with horrific notes that resulted in some misquotes which lead me to become terrified of conducting interviews as a journalist. It didn’t help that I would stumble upon a substantial investigative story that would grace the front pages of my school’s paper for two weeks.
What I learned from that particular event was to treat the interview more like a conversation; to make the interviewee at ease with their environment and to ask the right questions by going in with a plan. I also learned that sometimes a story doesn’t go as planned and that stories occasionally wander in another direction. You have to be receptive to the information that you are being given, do your research, and not be rigid in any one perspective but be open to hearing multiple sides of a story.
I would take what I learned in college and apply it as a writer for my city’s local magazine after graduation, as an editor for an online publication, and now as a writer for multiple publications. I would also come to fall in love with real journalism and the sitting down for interviews with some fantastic people, and I would continue working as a writer and journalist for the love of the interview.