I’m fairly confident in my ability to say that the newsroom here at Sonoma West Publishers is primarily made up of introverts — we love our jobs, we love our communities and as long as we’re not forced to be the life of the party, we’re good to go. Contradicting our collective social trepidation, however, is one of the staples of community journalism: interviewing.
Interviewing, like putting the paper together or sitting down to hammer out articles, is essential to the process. It’s what allows us to interact with a source directly, to connect one-on-one with community members and to learn more information about a specific issue.
Personally, interviewing for feature stories is one of my favorite parts of the job — I like to chat with community members about the issues that are important to them and learn new things about the area or about the people who live here. I think that interviews are one of the best ways that we as journalists can figure out what’s important to our audience. In my ideal world, interviews would always be conducted one-on-one while sitting outside at Plank Coffee’s Cloverdale location. Despite the occasional loud truck, there’s limited noise interference when it comes to recording and there’s usually a nice breeze.
Interview styles aren’t one size fits all, though, and inevitably all of us have different approaches and preferences when it comes to meeting with people. So, to get to the root of how each of us at Sonoma West prefers to interact with our interviewees, I decided to interview my fellow journalists about their interview processes.
There was consensus on the preference to interview people one-on-one, rather than in a group. It tends to be easier to track quotes when there aren’t a bunch of voices talking over one another.
While the majority of folks here don’t have their ideal interview narrowed down to location, Sonoma West Times & News Editor Laura Hagar Rush prefers interviewing people for features in their home or place of business.
“I love seeing what surrounds them,” she said, adding that it can help give a better idea of a person’s personality.
In terms of the ideal person to interview, Staff Writer Katherine Minkiewicz said that she loves talking to people who “are willing to share more than what you ask them and are willing to take a deep dive into the answer.”
She also appreciates when people get back in a timely manner, or when they offer additional contacts to talk to — characteristics that I’m sure all of us appreciate as well.
When it comes to technique, most of Sonoma West aligns. All of us tend to record interviews — though you’ll always hear us ask for permission first. Some of us take notes while interviewing, and most of us stick to writing down highlights if we’re also recording.
While interviewing is a task of the job, everyone here enjoys having conversations with sources, rather than just straight interviews. It makes the job more enjoyable for both parties involved.
What do we like the most about interviewing? Both Katherine and Windsor Times Editor Heather Bailey like learning new information, Managing Editor Andrew Pardiac likes the challenge of being able to figure out a person or situation, and Laura, who used to dislike interviewing, loves listening for a great quote.
“It makes my little heart go pitter-patter,” she said.
Zoë Strickland is the editor of the Cloverdale Reveille.