Confession: I love talking about facts in interviews. Whatever I'm researching and reporting on, I can yammer on about until someone brings out a huge hook and yanks me away from the microphone.
One topic, however, makes me cringe, clinch my teeth and shake my head no: Myself. As my thirteen-year-old would say in a fake English accent, "Nothing to see here, folks, move along!" It's been the hardest part of my transition from reporting to blogging, sharing anything personal. Sharing personal information with someone else to share FOR me? Excruciating.
I think I've finally figured out why: My problem is that the skills required for a good interview -- keen observation, the ability to craft prose around Just The Facts and simple questions such as "Why?" -- are pretty rare. Hence, why should I trust the interviewer? Magazine stands and Web sites are junked up with masturbatory articles in which the writer puts herself first, her reader last and the subject risks ending up as roadkill. I've worked so hard to have a great family life, why talk about it at all much less with someone I don't know?
Carr: There are two kinds of reporters that I experienced. One was people that just showed up, asked a lot of questions, wrote down what I said, and then went and wrote a story about my answers and what they knew. And then there was another version of reporter that showed up, made a speech about what my book was about, made a number of assumptions about why I wrote it, asked me a few questions and then went and wrote what they thought. And I've always, I think, had tendencies toward the second kind of reporter. The people who just came and asked questions, their stories were 10 times better, and I gotta say that had a profound effect on me. I don't need to make a speech before I start in on a story. I don't need to explain what I think. I need to find out what the other person knows and then write it up. I need to show more curiosity about the matter at hand, and less authority.
Clearly Carr's really showing up for this interview. Here's the kicker: Dumenco exhorted this great response with a two-word question. He writes a lead-in to a Q&A with Carr and the result is a great case study for any writer. To see how it's done, check out 'Media Has Become a Kind of Reverse Roach Motel ...' And Other Thoughts From New York Times Columnist David Carr on the Pursuit of Truth ... and What Happens Next.
I did interviews with both women earlier this year, in which I was surprised to be asked questions about my children and partner, rather than just questions about BlogHer and women online. Samantha did extensive research before the interview -- she covered the widest variety of questions I've had from any reporter this year. Vicki and I never even spoke, but she did a masterful job of editing down my emailed responses to her questions.
In fact, the only way I agreed to do these two interviews was the professional way in which both these sites represent themselves and the fair manner in which I felt they treated other interviewees.
So thanks Vicki and Samantha!