An overview of the challenges of news interviews and oral history interviews

A Reporter Who Absolutely Ignored Oral History Book

Compiled by: Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


In the late 2010s, I accepted an oral history project at the suggestion of a friend; without knowing the depth of the prerequisites, dos, don'ts and challenges of the oral history interview. I did an hour-long interview a week, and when it was over, I felt that the amount of energy spent was more than news interviews and it didn't go as smoothly as I thought. On the other hand, although I was going to the narrator by studying, but at the end of the way, I realized that due to the lack of deep and detailed research before the interview, what a disaster I caused to the subject!

For some reason, I had to stop the interviews and someone else went for the interviews instead of me. Unfortunately or fortunately, they came to the conclusion that the narratives do not have enough capacity and attraction to be published. So I thought that it wasn't just my work that was weak! Although I deeply understood that the problem was mine! After that, I started studying and attending oral history workshops to gain knowledge, and I was only involved in news activities in this field, and I no longer had the courage to approach oral history interviews. Now I am going to share with you the challenges and requirements of a proper oral history interview based on personal experience. Because in recent years, we have witnessed the publication of books with the title of oral history, which may have been based on superficial news interviews. Maybe if I had the power of time travel, something better would happen to that narrator. I emphasize that this is a reporter's note and does not have a scientific or research aspect.


The importance of stydying before the interview

Interviews about historical events are carried out with various goals, such as clarifying an event from the words of its witnesses or informing the new generation about it. It can be published in the form of magazines, newspapers or news agencies and will be available in the news archive. But an oral history interviewer conducts an interview with the goal of collecting the memories and observations of one or more people about a subject or person, and ultimately provides a reliable historical written document to the audience. Also, the audio or video file of the interviews will be kept in the archive of the ordering organization to be available to the researchers in the future. So when you intend to take such a serious step, you must first conduct detailed studies on the subject of the interview; including newspapers, magazines, documents and books related to the subject. In the process of taking notes, you should pay attention to two points: firstly, to extract the neglected points about the subject so that you have a full and dominant hand in front of the interviewee, and secondly, as an oral history interviewer, complete mastery of the subject, place and time related to Have a narration, it will prevent your mistakes while raising questions, solving ambiguities and possibly the narrator's mistakes in the course of the narration. You may not know exactly where to start studying. If you focus on the above three axes, the scope of your study will be clear.


Narrator's technique of persuasion

The second advantage of reading before the interview is to create interest in the narrator. In fact, the narrator's persuasion technique is very important for participating in the interview session and talking about the topic. Sometimes the narrator is selected by the ordering entity and the narrator is waiting for your presence in the interview session. But when you are supposed to make the narrator agree to the interview, you should come to the introduction meeting with such useful information that the narrator will be sure of your familiarity with the subject and be willing to do the interview. Sometimes having specific information from the heart of the documents and revealing it in the introduction meeting will have a deep impact on the narrator. And as a final piece of advice, "Be yourself." Until the narrator feels comfortable with you, do not expect to say the unsaid and so to speak, break the ice of the conversation. The more the narrator feels relaxed and comfortable next to you during the interview sessions, the more attractive and intimate narratives you will witness. In another note, we will talk about the difficulties and other challenges of the interview.


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