The Interview Experience

So it’s official, I’m going to be interviewing Alan Dein from the BBC on March 25th. Although I’m quite nervous about the whole thing, overall, I’m very excited; I think it’s going to be a great opportunity.  Why am I nervous?  Although we all know I love to chat, I think I’m mainly nervous because Alan probably can out chat me; I hope he doesn’t try to spin the interview and suddenly we are 30 minutes in and he’s actually interviewing me!

I’ve been listening to his BBC Radio 4 broadcast “Don’t Log Off” and I am so impressed with how comfortable Alan is when he questions his interviewee.  Moreover, this interviewee is someone who Alan (besides some background research on the interviewee’s Facebook page) is speaking with for the very first time. The interviewee may say the most shocking statement, but Alan stays calm and collected as he proceeds to his next inquiry.  I want to interview like that BUT I know my interview with Alan will not be as seamless and its not fair to myself to set the bar so high.  I am nervous that the interview will not be a smooth, cohesive, comfortable interaction. I need to face the fact that it’s the first time I’m doing anything like this so it is bound to have some, ok fine, A LOT of flaws. However, looking past the flaws, I know I’ll do a decent job, I’m friendly enough (I think), and considering Alan’s choice of career, he probably likes to talk about just as much, if not more, than I do.

I think our radio project interviews for Alun Lewis’ have been great practice for this major oral history interview.  When listening to my interviews with various fish and chip experts I hear myself just jumping to the next question after my interviewee finishes his answer to my previous one.  Hearing myself do this, I cringe; it is painfully awkward to listen to.  I’m chalking it up as a major learning experience.  For my interview with Alan I am going to actively listen and not allow myself to be pinned down by my prepared questions.  I want to be engaged with what he is telling me; I don’t want to be some Channel 4 news anchor robot who can only spit out rehearsed questions.

Ok, so, besides the nerves (and the reasons why I’m so nervous does not end with my previously stated concerns, but I’ll move on) I am mainly excited for this opportunity to interview Alan.  As I said, I’ve been listening to “Don’t Log Off” and if you haven’t listened to it yet I suggest you do so; it is fascinating!  In one episode Alan speaks to an American from the midwest who meets and falls in love with a Russian woman over the Internet.  However, here’s the kicker, he doesn’t speak a lick of Russian, and she doesn’t speak a bit of English.  They use Google translate to communicate. Alan calls the relationship “Lost in Translation” (pun intended). Where I’m at in the series is this man is booking a flight to Russia where he plans to meet this woman, marry her, and bring her back to the U.S.  I spoke to Alan on the phone this week and we chatted about this interesting relationship; according to Alan, he follows up with the man later on in the series. You can find out what happens here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGIMK01uCg

Speaking with Alan over the phone calmed my nerves a lot actually.  The American man and Russian woman interview happened in 2012 and Alan was able to recall exact details from it.  I had listened to it only days prior and I had a hard time remembering the specifics.  He knows his stuff and I’m overjoyed that I get this opportunity to interview him, but most importantly, learn from him.

Here’s the link to “Don’t Log Off” definitely check all the episodes out! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jxzy9/episodes/guide

alan dein

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One Comment on “The Interview Experience”

  1. Graham Smith says:

    Oral historians interviewing oral historians… Have a look at Ron Grele interviewing Studs Terkel in Grele’s Envelopes of Sound.


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