I recently met Anthony Jones when he and I facilitated a graffiti workshop at Wollongong Youth Centre. During our initial conversation, Anthony gave a brief explanation of his journey from troubled teenager to successful local business owner. He spoke very candidly about various life experiences including being kicked out of home at a young age, spending time in jail and overcoming adversity to forge a successful business, Urban Art Australia. I found Anthony’s life story to be quite remarkable so I asked if he would allow me to profile him for my University project. Anthony happily obliged and we agreed to meet the following week to conduct an interview.
I utilised the information Anthony shared in our initial encounter to formulate a series of questions to ask in the interview. I perceive this as a strength of the interview process because curiosity and active listening provided sound research for use in the later interview. This technique is depicted in the book ‘interviewing, a core skill’ (2006) page 186 where the author states that “The better the research before an interview, the better the journalists position to bargain for more information.” Examples include 23:37- talking about his business and 14:50- asking Anthony about getting into trouble with the law.
Anthony was a ‘good talent’ (McHugh, 2016) to interview and his willingness to speak candidly about his experiences was a strength of the interview. This is evidenced at various stages throughout the interview including at 15:01 when Anthony opens up about his previous drug use and 17:40 when Anthony recalls his father warning him that “the way you’re going; you’re going to end up in gaol”
I began the interview by employing the ‘gentle approach’ strategy as depicted in the book ‘interviewing, a core skill’ (2006). I Asked a closed question at 0:19 to establish where Anthony grew up and then and asked an open ended question about family life to set the tone for the interview. This enabled Anthony and I to slowly set the rhythmic pace of the interview.
At 5:40 in the interview I asked Anthony to share his thoughts on the graffiti sub culture. I hadn’t planned to ask this question but after closely listening to him talk about his experiences in graffiti scene at 2:40 I thought it would be interesting to find out some information. I believe that employing Siobhan McHugh’s (2007) concept of Aerobic listening was evident here and this was consequently a strength of the interview.
Siobhan McHugh (2007) also states “Empathy obviates the need to like or dislike someone. You can clinically record a distasteful action by your informant, without abhorring him – judgment is withheld.” I perceive this as a strength of the interview because I was careful to withhold judgment as I asked Anthony to share his experience in prison at 15:00-17:20. I believe this helped build rapport between myself and Anthony, which inevitably enticed him to share more intimate information throughout the interview at 18:35 and 32:50.
As stated in page 196 of ‘interviewing, a core skill’, “The best interviewers are empathetic listeners. They understand and empathise with all sorts of people”. I displayed empathic listening at 23:25 in the interview when acknowledged that Anthony has “come a long way” and that he has overcome adversity to achieve success.
I noticed whilst listening to the recorded interview that I fumbled my words at various stages such as 11:47 where I can clearly be heard saying “um”. This occurred at multiple stages throughout the interview. Another weakness of the interview is evident at 18:00. During my questioning at this stage of the interview my tone of voice appears uninterested and dull. I could have spoken with more clarity to ensure that Anthony felt like I was interested in what he was saying and engaged in the interview.
Overall I believe my interview with Anthony was successful. I believe this was primarily due to the frank and honest nature of the talent and the articulate and candid retelling of his experiences. In future I will be careful to ensure that I ask questions in a more enthusiastic manner as my questioning was weak at 18:00 and 9:25.
Conley, D & Lambie S 2006, ‘Interviewing, a core skill’ in D Conley & S Lambie (ed.), The Daily Miracle: An Introduction to Journalism, Oxford University press, Indiana University, pp. 182-207.
McHugh, SA 2007, ‘The Aerobic Art of Interviewing’, Asia Pacific Media Educator, vol. 18, pp. 147-154.
McHugh, SA 2016, ‘The (aerobic) Art of Interviewing’, Lecture, Media Reporting and Storytelling 2, University of Wollongong, viewed 30 March 2016, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/mod/folder/view.php?id=458527>