Welcome from Zambia! I can honestly say that, so far, this has been the experience of a lifetime. I have learnt so much about UNICEF and Barclays and the great work they are doing out here and have met some really fantastic, interesting and colourful people.
It took a bit of deliberation over a plate of pasta to decide what my first blog post should be about, but this topic seemed particularly fitting as I knew very little about journalism before entering this competition.
Firstly, I have learnt to be thankful for dictaphones! It is so difficult to listen to somebody talk and write their answers at the same time, so I really applaud anyone who can manage this effortlessly!
I have also discovered that the best bit about interviewing a person is the moment you witness them ‘transform’ during the session. I have witnessed this with quite a few of the interviewees. The start can be rather quiet, and even a little awkward, as I struggle to think of appropriate starting questions and they struggle to think of interesting answers. But, then, there is a ‘lightbulb moment’ when they begin to really open up, the answers start flowing and I can almost see an article about this person forming in my head.
I have noticed that the interviewees tend to relax the most when they are in a familiar and comfortable setting, particularly their homes. This is great for me, as I am able to gain a real insight into what their lives are like as they walk around their rooms and show me their everyday (and prized) possessions.
I find the most difficult thing about being a journalist asking the interviewee personal and emotional questions. It’s challenging to know when it’s appropriate to push the person for an answer and when it’s better to leave them be. Of course, it’s usually the personal details that make for the most interesting stories, but there is a very fine line between what you can and cannot ask somebody.
I’m sure there are many cut-throat journalists out there who will get the information they need at any cost, but I don’t think I am one of them! I’ve started to think about how I would feel being asked that particular question and using that as my guide. Luckily I’ve had a lot of support from Kate, my UNICEF mentor, and I’m sure that knowing the balance is something that will become easier with time.