The true meaning of interviews

I’ve been interviewing a lot recently and to very different ends. For me, any project begins with an interview even if the client doesn’t realise it. They think we’re just shooting the breeze chatting about this and that but I always have an agenda. Over the past few weeks, I have interviewed:

  • a photographer to help write the dreaded statement about his work;
  • a survivor of medical malpractice to help them map out their long and difficult journey for a conference address;
  • a company using a disruptive technology to help them present how it has impacted their day-to-day work at an event;
  • over twenty vox-pops, asking people about their Culture Night experience, which were then shared across social media.

Very very different angles and histories but each one had a story to tell and the trick of the interviewer is to get to the nub of the story before it becomes obvious it’s an interview. When people are being “interviewed”, their internal editor/curator takes over and before you know it you’re being fed platitudes and pretensions which do not translate into interesting material.

This has made me think about the actual word interview. The Cambridge dictionary states that inter- is a prefix used to form adjectives meaning “between or among the people, things, or places mentioned” so inter-views must be views between or among people. All the researcher ever wants is a view in – if you can access truth while eliminating pretension, well then all the better.



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