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Sounds Good!
Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Two Interviews

After a brief break to consider Valerie Geller’s thoughts on interviewing, we return to our ongoing examination of what makes a good interview.

It occurred to me after years of conducting interviews - formally in-studio, in the field, over scratchy phone line, on high-tech ISDN connections, and the like, that every interview we do is in essence two interviews.

First, there is the interview with the newsmaker - that is the person who has written the best-selling novel, the movie star, the scientist or the expert. We are interviewing that person for their professional expertise and experience. The presumption is that they have knowledge and opinions shaped by experience and perhaps research in an area of endeavor that will be of some interest to our audience. Whether they are scientists, authors, elected officials, academics or the like, there is some professional reason we are speaking to this person.

On the other hand, we are also interviewing a human being, with feelings and experiences quite apart from their professional expertise. It is important that the interviewer remember that she is interviewing really two people at the same time: the professional and the personal. It is the intersection of these two interview subjects that can often make an interview ring true or at least more moving and meaningful than one in which this reality hasn’t been taken into account.

For example, if you are interviewing a scientist who has discovered a live-saving drug, you would need to discuss those scientific developments in such a way that your audience understood the scope and significance of that development. But if you neglected to ask the person behind the scientist what he felt about those scientific developments, you would probably be missing an important dimension of that interview.

As you prepare your interview questions, try to keep in mind the person behind the profession. The questions to the ‘person’ (as opposed to the ‘professional’) need to be respectful and provocative, but not too trivial. Questions like “...what would you want an audience to know about your discovery...?” make a lot more sense than “what was it like discovering this...?”

There is nothing wrong with putting yourself in the place of an unknowing but curious audience, and posing the questions that you as an interviewer may already know, but which your audience has not had the opportunity to ask. Those questions apply just as much to the private person you are interviewing as they do to the professional subject sitting across from you during that interview. Next week, managing where an interview goes. Until then, breathe deeply!