For an internship, I was to interview the executive producer of a docudrama, “Outlaw Country.”
At the scheduled time of the interview waiting for the call, I was ready with my fully-charged phone, iPad on the side with the recording app open, ready for me to hit the record icon, charger connected to the wall socket on my left, and pen and paper in front of me.
2:15 came and went.
An email exchange later, I find out they want to postpone the interview a few minutes. No problem, as long as I get my interview.
2:45 my phone rings.
Around 3:04 I’m told there’s only time for one more question. Wait, what? I’m on a time limit and no one mentioned this before?
I think I have become complacent about how I think of time when interviewing people. For ever crime story I called the cops for, I knew I didn’t have longer than 10 minutes to talk to them. 15 minutes if I was lucky. Every time I have scheduled an interview, I would try to give my sources a ballpark of how long the interview would take. Lately, my statements have changed from “do you have about x-amount-of-time to talk?” to “do you have time now to talk?” And that, I found out the hard way, is not the best practice. Smack on the hand.
Lesson learnt: when talking to sources, ask how much time you have with them (if it has not already been predetermined).
Second lesson: always ask the most important questions first.
Again, this would seem like a no-brainer. But, if you believe you have time to talk to a source, you get to the meaty questions a few minutes into the conversation. You get the simple, one-inch-below-surface, Q&A out of the way. Then, depending on what the person has said (or hasn’t), you go for what you really came for: THE story.
I didn’t do that.
I went for the one-inch-below-surface questions, keeping the hows and whys for after I had all the bones. And now the only way I can get the meat (the part of my brain that makes snarky comments thinks it is funny how a vegetarian is seeking the meat) is to go through the PR person. And so begins my quest. Maybe I’ll get a second interview. I won’t know till I ask.