Old-fashioned interviewing, please stay.

30 09 2009

At this point in the semester, we are all well under way in our major individual research projects pertaining to interactive communications. Part of the process of researching and garnering accurate insight to the greater field of interactivity is interviewing.

Interviewing? Yes, you read correctly, interviewing.

Part of our lecture notes today was about the proper and professional means by which to approach such a topic. This got me thinking. Will interviewing continue as a honed skill among humans? Think about it. As more people migrate into the digital world, where increasing reliance upon instantaneous communications reign, how will the art of interviewing continue? Part of what makes interviews such powerful vehicles of information and emotion are the real, gritty and many times unexpected turns that unfold before the interviewer’s very eyes. Asking a pointed question may cause a powerful world leader to squirm in their seat. I ask you this, how can the authenticity of such an experience be replicated in new media where the interviewer and interviewee may never physically meet? For me, at least, that is an important factor that should not be stripped away from the interview process whenever possible.

If you are curious about whom some of the famed interviewers of modern times are, read on. The Poynter Institute Online hosts a great piece discussing this very topic. Poynter reporter Matt Thompson put his interviewing skills to work by asking some of the brightest interviewers out there about their insights in asking the right questions. Among one of my favorites is Bob Schieffer, a career newsman of “Face the Nation” fame on CBS. While reading the accounts that Mr. Schieffer provided in the course of his interview with Thompson, I realized that the interview was conducted via telephone. The physical presence of one person asking another questions and noting their answers was absent. I found that very ironic.

To capture my perspective precisely, I was encouraged by some of the words that Jim Short of the Press-Enterprise provided in his interview. He reflected that an interviewer should “Listen to the changes in his/her vocal patterns; watch the eyes; be cognizant of changes in demeanor.” Bingo, this is exactly the essence of an in-person interview. Sure, people can be interviewed by telephone and through social media tools such as Twitter. However, I am afraid this is missing something. There is not the full effect, the actual intimacy that, even if for a fleeting moment, exists when people are in each other’s physical presence. I am glad that I can conduct some of my research interviews in person, looking and speaking to a fellow human being as opposed to a computer screen. Time will tell if the practicality of maintaining that possibility should remain in the years to come.

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