Conducting an interview – words of wisdom by Levi Richardson

You can find the first of my 3-part series here where I interview Jo Verran.

Thinking back

I thoroughly enjoyed my time interviewing Dean, Alex and Jo, and I am grateful for the opportunity. Upon reflection there’s several more questions I wish I had asked, but I think that’s normal from an experience like this. I decided to limit interviews to roughly 30 minutes to respect both the interviewees busy schedule, and make sure I can get through the transcription (more on that later).

Nevertheless if you are contemplating embarking on an investigative journalism quest, I have some advice.

Tips for interviewing

  • Firstly, do your research on the person you are interviewing, feel like you already know them, this way you can tailor your questions in order to give your audience information that is not already available on the internet.
  • Break the ice as they are likely as nervous as you if they haven’t done an interview for a while or if they know you have a large audience. Ask them something friendly or make them laugh.
  • Next you want to remind your interviewee of the structure of the interview and what you intend to do with the footage (remember to turn your camera on).
  • You have likely came up with a structure or list of questions for the interview. Be prepared to voyage off on tangents every now and then as it could lead somewhere exciting!
  • Try to keep it as a conversation rather then you constantly looking down at your notes and reading verbatim. Tailor your questions depending on what your interviewee previously said.
  • Genuinely be interested in those your interviewing, if your not they will be able to tell and wont be as forthcoming with stories.
  • Be grateful and respectful of the fact they have gave up their time (very busy schedule) for you
  • Once finished the real work begins – Transcription – Typing and typing and typing. Your hands will ache! but its worth it.
  • Then pick out the relevant parts of your transcription and create a blog or story. Send it back to the interviewees for approval and voila its ready!

Final thoughts

Throughout my interviews, I noticed a key theme – Education. From Dean mentioning how they use the Grow café as an educator and communicator to feed people’s interest. To Jo and her Bad Bugs Book Club which she uses to promote discourse on how microbes are portrayed in the literature. To Alex whose research is investigating extinction denial as well as being at the forefront of the sustainability fight witnessing first-hand the plight of the Amazon as a result of our dietary choices. Its good if you can pick up on these themes during the talks as they are often unspoken but offer much needed insight into your interviewee.

My experience interviewing has taught me that It is clear that we need more emphasis on food sustainability, if we are to make the global changes needed. More generally interviewing has taught me to listen more attentively and find new avenues for the conversation to go down. I hope this blog and the series before it (Sustainability – No Excuses) has been as enlightening for you as it has for me. There are so many people incorporating sustainability into their line of work…. Will you be next?

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By Levi Richardson.