Field Note 02: Surviving ambush interviews

IF you don’t have a question to ask, try not to get in the way. Stay within earshot, but let the photographers and camera men through when they tap your shoulder to subtly tell you that you are blocking their shots. The next hint will likely not be so subtle.

Do not feel bad if you can’t think of anything to ask. Sometimes, listening is enough. Sometimes, asking a question already answered is worse than no question at all. A question based on wrong assumptions, worst of all. There are, despite that old reassuring chestnut from grade school, stupid questions.

When you do have a question, though, try to look at your interviewee and not your notebook. Use a voice recorder if you feel you’ll forget what they say within seconds of their saying it.

Jotting things down in a notebook may save you from having to make eye contact but it will also make you seem uninterested and like a bit of a douche. True story.

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