Journo student: Thoughts and exploits

Who’s got the best trauma?
February 26, 2009, 5:08 pm
Filed under: journalism, journalism student | Tags: ,

We all knew that we were going to have to sell our souls at one time or other on the road to becoming a journalist-but we didn’t realise it would be quite so soon.

A few weeks into our second term we were coached on ‘sensitive interviewing’ techniques and were then told to interview someone who had been through the ‘best of times’ or the ‘worst of times’. Predictably the majority of us chose to find someone who had been through the ‘worst of times’ although some sunnier souls went for something a bit lighter.

Trawling through organisations and charities, looking for the victims of trauma, the bereaved and the emotionally scarred became commonplace in the City university journalism department that week. For some, it became an arduous task and eventually the inevitable desensitisation set in and calls of , “I think I’ve got an ovarian cancer-what have you got?” or “I’ll swap you an HIV for child bereavment” could be heard over the computer screens.

OK, so it wasn’t quite that bad but we are all becoming aware of just how ruthless we were going to have to be to get a good story. We were beginning to think of these unfortunate people in terms of who would give the most sensational interview.Sitting in a class and discussing ‘sensitive interviewing’ is one thing but actually interviewing a trauma victim is entirely another.

I found someone relatively easily-a great subject who was easy to interview and seemed to be entirely open to all lines of questioning.However, I think some of us found it hard and an altogether unpleasant experience. Some, on the other hand, discovered a new passion and talent for interviewing ‘real’ people.  

I found that all feelings of guilt and apprehension about motives slipped away as soon as the interview began-I became involved in the story and realised that I would be able to write a truthful account about an interesting individual.

After initial uncertainty, I found that sensitive interviewing and writing real life stories is OK. Actually, I enjoy it. Spending your time interviewing extraordinary people and having the chance to tell their story in a truthful way can be pretty rewarding-and hell, it pays well.