Once again, I’m throwing out some lessons learned through the different sections I run on the site. And today brings what Interviews with the Invisible taught me…[Man, I have to admit this a great way to fill space.]
5. Someone Doesn’t Have to Be Famous to Be Interesting, In Fact It Helps If They Aren’t Famous. The entire idea for the section is that people who are the center of an issue (“welfare bums,” war veterans, tornado survivors, unionized teachers) are very rarely given a chance to speak for themselves. And when you let them do that, it’s always interesting. Whether I’m interviewing a laid-off teacher or an illegal immigrant or simply a worker whose job has been outsourced, generally the more voiceless a person is, the more they have to say. To be completely honest (and I realize this will sound like bullshit), I’d rather interview a Wal-Mart worker than Angelina Jolie, and just how interesting the interviews always are really reflects why.
4. It’s Easier to Find People to Interview Than Debate but Still Not as Easy as It Should Be. Not one person who has ever done an interview with me has complained about it afterwards or been unhappy with the way it went. And yet, it’s still pretty difficult to find people to agree to be interviewed (and even if they agree there’s no guarantee they won’t flake on you at the last minute). Not as hard as it is for the debates—-where I’m often reduced to searching out loons on the internet—-but it’s still more difficult than you’d think for what almost always turn out to be flattering or informative interviews.
3. The Best Thing I Can Do is Shut-Up and Let Them Tell It. Often times I like to ask very long interview questions (some of the first interviews have two paragraph long questions that are really more statements) and I feel that forces people to be a little more detailed in their own answers. Still, they can tell it better than I can guide them to it (just look at the interview with The Beer Party Leader as an example of someone who puts it better than I could ask him it), and it’s best to just phrase a question and let them go…until people give too short answers and then it’s time to pull out the patience-busting full page questions.
2. Most Interviews of Mine Are Too Long but I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way. The only complaints I have ever gotten about this feature are that the interviews are “too long” to read in one sitting, but I really dismiss that. For some people that do interviews, this is the ONLY chance they’ll really get to tell their side of the story—-practically the whole point of the segment—-and if they want to talk for ten pages, then I’m very happy to let them. So grab a blanket, a cup of hot cocoa, and settle in because the length of most interviews won’t be shortened.
1. That This Is the Best Section of the Site. If people were to ask “What’s your favorite thing to write?” I’d have to say anything that runs on Monday. If they were to ask what I think is the best written? I’d have to say Working Class Economist. If they were to ask what is the most fun to write? Then obviously I’d have to say Bubba’s Sex Tips. But if the question is “What is the flat-out best section on the site?” It would have to be the interviews. Each time one happens, you can literally get inside someone else’s head that you might have nothing in common with (in one month last year the interviews were a liberal preacher, an Ivory Coast businessman, and a reporter for an Alabama newspaper) and find out what they’re all about. Not to get too melodramatic about it, but that can be a very moving thing.