Friday, May 18, 2007

The Long Interview

Working on Medill Reports has allowed me to experiment with different techniques as a reporter. Usually, when I am daily reporting, I go into a story already with a pretty good idea of what I’m expecting people to say. Sometimes, when my last interview is pretty late, I will begin scripting before I have even finished the last interview. I go into that last interview with an idea of the exact bytes I need, and as soon as I get them, I pretty much close up shop.

I sometimes feel bad after these interviews—sometimes I’m more worried about deadline and getting good sound bytes than taking the time to get to know someone and hear their story.

However, with Medill Reports, I have the luxury of a little extra time. Last night, I decided to try something new. I am focusing on postpartum depression for my story, and I was interviewing a woman who went through severe postpartum depression and also her husband. I decided I would take as much time as I wanted and let her answers really guide my questions. And I’m really glad I did that!

I went in thinking of postpartum depression in a certain way. I had read articles and listened to doctors, and had my own notions of the disease and what I thought she was going to say. However, her case, her symptoms, and her emotions were so different than from what I imagined. My interview with the woman lasted an hour and I also got to spend some time with her children, shooting them, and talking to her husband.

I left her house feeling so satisfied—knowing that I really let this woman talk and tell her side, and now I can go into the edit bay and sort through what she said and let her story guide the direction of my story. It won’t be me plugging her sound bytes into a pre-written script.

However, now I’m faced with a second dilemma. This is a four minute piece. I spent a good two and a half hours at someone’s house and now I’ll probably use a minute at most from that. I know I have to get over it—but it makes me feel bad!

Originally, I was going to cover postpartum depression for a daily reporting piece—but after making some phone calls—I knew I could not do the topic justice in a minute and thirty seconds. That is why I chose it for Medill Reports. Now—my challenge is piecing together all these stories and perspectives into four minutes. I still don’t think that’s enough time!


At Friday, May 18, 2007, Blogger AM said...

This is so tough. I'm going through the same thing with great interviews now that we have time - how do we respect our sources and tell the story in 5 minutes? I have no idea.

At Saturday, May 19, 2007, Blogger AG said...

I agree and I am having the exact same problem. I am covering epilepsy and a girl suffering from it, but like you said I also spent two and a half hours at their house and have no idea how to edit it down.

I also agree that it really isn't fair that we guide people in what to say for our daily pieces. I do feel the exact same way. I am like guiding them just to get what I need and get out.

Can't wait to see your story though... that topic fascinates me.

At Saturday, May 19, 2007, Blogger GN said...

It's sad, but that's the reality. I started out "conversing" with my sources back in Methods. It was very satisfying and I personally learned so much. But I always crammed when it came close to the deadline.
What I've learned over time is that, given the deadlines and the nature of broadcasting, you just have to zip in and out of an interview, ask the exact three questions to get the answers you needed and, many times, even anticipated. It really sucks and I struggle with finding the middle ground, too.

At Sunday, May 20, 2007, Blogger MW said...

Yeah, had the same problem in methods about a teen suicide story. It's rough when you get someone to open up about something very personal (moreso when it's something they've kept from most people they know), only to use 30 seconds of it. She was cool with it though, I made it clear beforehand that it was going to be a very short news piece, and it's not like knowing that would've given her this attitude like, "Oh, I've been talking for five minutes, and your piece is only 90 seconds so I'm gonna stop right NOW."


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