Art of the interview: Reflections from the European Media Seminar

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Art of the interview: Reflections from the European Media Seminar
Photograph: Domi Winkler

At the JEF European Media Seminar, organised by Treffpunkt Europa, Le Taurillon and The New Federalist in April, one of the workshops trained participants to conduct interviews.

As a part of the workshop, a number of participants prepared an interview with Valerie Sternberg, President of Volt Germany. The interview was the most read article on The New Federalist in June; it was published at a time when there was vigorous online discussion on the emerging party. We got back to Marie Pouliquen (MP) and Věra Dvořáková (VD) and asked them to reflect on their experience.

TNF: What were the most important things you learned in the journalism workshop?

MP: I think that one of the most important things I learned from the workshop – I know it may seem a bit obvious – is that neutrality does not exist. Even if objective information is sought, a journalist will always react to what the interviewee will say with a specific point of view. By the way, journalists during an interview don’t have to hide behind the questions and must not hesitate, even if the person is an expert, to challenge what is said, to be critical. Even if we often follow a well-structured set of question, it also important to react spontaneously!

VD: The workshop itself was full of information, tips and the journalist’s experience, so I can’t decide what the most important things were. However, for me, it was inspirational to see how proper journalists plan, research and conduct interviews. It certainly helped me to get a better picture of how the work of a professional journalist looks like. Another great thing about the workshop was that it served as motivation to try interviewing someone in the future.

When you did a real interview, was it easy to apply what you had learned? How did you find the interview in general?

MP: I must say that I had never carried out such an interview before, this was for me a great and interesting challenge to participate to the interview of the president of Volt Germany.

The advice regarding the first part of the interview, that is, the preparation of the different questions, the research about the interviewee, the precise aim of the interview, were not so hard to apply. If found it really interesting to really reflect on the purpose of every single question.

Conducting the interview itself seemed to me a bit more complicated. Sometimes, the interviewee does not answer clearly enough, and goes in another direction, and that is a bit frustrating. It’s pretty hard to dare to interrupt the person and say, ‘you did not really answer the question!’

The interview itself in general was really exciting, I really enjoyed the fact that we could truly exchange with the President of Volt Germany, beyond the prepared questions.

VD: To be honest, I hadn’t done many interviews prior to the workshop, so I was relatively afraid that it might be a disadvantage for me. But the lecturer provided us with a sort of “interview template” he invented for himself, so in the end, I would say it was fairly easy to apply the theory. Owing to the fact that we worked in small groups, both the preparation and the interview were creative and enjoyable as well.

Have you got tips for interviewees, given what you learned about interviews from the journalist’s viewpoint?

MP: Please, if possible, structure your answer, and try not to digress too much from the topic.

VD: I have only one bit of advice: if you want to make the interviewer’s life easier, just stick to the point and really try to answer the question you’ve been asked.

How have you benefited from the JEF media seminar experience since the event? Have you got plans to do other journalistic work in the near future?

MP: In the context of the European elections, I can pretty well imagine myself interviewing the candidates of different parties, for instance. Thanks to this seminar, I will feel far more confident and armed for this type of journalistic exercise.

VD: Sadly, I haven’t been able to put the skills and knowledge acquired at the seminar to practice yet. However, I am now planning to help a friend of mine with launching a company which would report on start-ups in Northern Denmark, so I might finally do some more journalism.

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