Molly MacDonald’s Top Ten List

Oral History Top Ten: It’s a list of interviewing tips, learned from experience. Here are two faves, go there to read ‘em all

Don’t wait for two months before listening to your interview, even if it is over 2 hours long. There may be some good stuff in there you want to use!

Two months?? How about two years!? I assume that doing an interview with a family member is far less formal than an interview as a public historian. But I’ve BTDT w/ a family interview. There’s a fleeting moment, during the interview, when I think, “Oh, I’d like to know more about that subject” and even before I write down a cryptic note to follow up on it, the person launches into another area, and then I’m taken elsewhere. Fortunately, while listening later, I remember the follow up topic. So, well, it behooves me to listen to the interview sooner than later, so I can note that follow-up topic sooner while the topic is fresher in my interviewee’s mind.

Do try, whenever possible- I don’t know- When you’re- If you’re asking questions- umm … full sentences will be easier to transcribe.

Ah yes. That ole cringe while listening to one one’s own

speaking habit

stumbling around for words. Since it’s near Christmas, and I’m in the Make Stress and Low as possible (successful holiday = we eat three meals and open presents), I’ll take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Come to think of it, this goes into the “Downsides of Real Life versus certain performances.” The music recording industry sets up a false expectation about live performance: The CD I hear is the best take among several takes, and what I listen to is rare, statistically. Stories and audio documentaries on the radio: Programs such as This American Life or NPR’s stories and documentaries, I’m tempted to think that everyone speaks in nice, coherent sentences. But no. There are uhs, and that little beast called the bobble, which is handily edited out. Thoughts are rearranged to flow in better sequence. God bless the editor! (I’ve done a bit of that myself). And movies and TV shows, well, of course there’s a ton of preparation to make things look and sound just so. So, um, well, I guess that means I uh should embrace—what I mean is that it’s okay if I sound like I do—if I sound like that in real, recorded form.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 23, 2006 in • Interviewing
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