I was listening to an interview with Italian historian Alessandro Portelli, and he was talking about oral history interviews. He said, "Think of the interview as opening a space."
That is exactly what it boils down to. The memorable story you get at an interview is rarely the one you went in expecting. Of course, if you have a list of prepared questions and don't venture beyond them, you'll never hear that story.
Just this past week I was interviewing someone and although he was a bit reticent at first, as we talked more he opened up and told me some wonderful stories. The space was open, and he walked into it.
I believe that young journalists often fail to listen during an interview. They're so nervous and so determined to get their questions in that they don't pay attention to a wonderful comment that begs for a follow-up question -- a great question that was not on their list. It just takes experience and being comfortable enough to make it a conversation and not an interrogation.
I agree. It's a common problem. So many missed opportunities because people aren't listening.
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