Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To phone or visit, that is the question

Two interviews I conducted this morning gave me a strong appreciation of the interview process from the subject’s side.

In each case, the interview subject had some strong feelings about his/her organisation, and was eager to chat to someone who get them some publicity. I was in a rush – I have a big pile of deadlined work in September and need to use my time wisely. And the profiles are rather short, and so, in the great scheme of things, do not require more than a 15-minute chat to get what I need. So, telephonic interviews suited me better than in-person interviews.

On the other hand, my interview wanted me to come to their offices so they can explain things properly. They had things to show me, stories to tell. How do I politely say, “Sorry, actually you want to tell me too much. I just want the bare bones so I can write my 300 words and move on to the next article.”

As s a working writer, I find that the faster you get to the heart of the matter, the more productive you are. So I sometimes targeted questions that get me the answers I’m looking for, and no more.

My usual sources in business understand this, and are happpy to do the telephonic thing. It gets them publicity, and takes the same time it would for them to drink a cup of coffee.

But I also appreciate that, writers are traditionally expected to listen to people tell me their stories. The more you engage your interview subjects, the richer the story.

Because of this tension, I pushed harder for a telephonic interview in one instance. There was no way I could justify the time and resources spent in an in-person interview. For the second article, I caved in to do the in-person interview.

It’s a profile of a recreation centre less than 5km from my home, looking at the arts and crafts and the exhibition they are hosting. And how do you rave about an organisation, the people, their talent and their works if you’ve never been there?

And yes, it’s a strong departure from my niche. Just what I need after the intensity of the ICT report I mentioned yesterday and the pile of case studies I’m doing in the next three weeks.

So tomorrow morning, I’m going to visit the recreation centre, get some material for the article. But I’m also planning to simply enjoy the visit, see if it offers something interesting for Baby, who occasionally does craft things.

I might even blog about it.


Shelly Storm said...

Hey Damaria - I'm Shelly from the Fragmented Writers Group. Can't figure out how to get your email so just leaving you a comment. If you can e-mail me at and send me your email address, I can add you to the group as an author. Then you can start posting. Thanks for checking out the site - I appreciate it!

Georganna Hancock M.S. said...

Yes, I remember that tug-of-war between time and talk. Trouble was, with me, I was interested in everything people had to say! Sometimes it helps to ask (on the phone), "Do you mind if we visit and talk at length some other time? Right now I only need to know ...."

Damaria Senne said...

Thanks Georganna, for the suggestion. Sounds so much easier the way you phrase it.

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