The interviewing of a Person

Interview (Photo credit: smiling_da_vinci)

Today while sitting on campus, I had the unfortunate displeasure of having to overhear an interview being taken place. The interviewer was a journalism student. Her interviewee, a young man who experienced a traumatic event. The interview was done in a crowded student waiting area, with no thought of privacy for the young man’s comfort.  While I understand college is about learning your craft, I felt sorry for the young man.  The interviewer was overwhelmingly interesting in his traumatic experience and minimally interested in him. Only the event mattered.

Many of us are fascinated by human behavior and how experiences effect it. So curious of unusual human experiences, we pay little attention to the individual. We only envelop ourselves in the event.  What happened to this young man is not as important as his health and quality of life. The rapid firing of questions directed at the incident could have been answered by a police report.  The one question that was a minor attempt to see into the man behind the trauma was, “So, this effected your whole life right?.”  The man simply answered, “Yes, it did.” and that was into introspective part of the interview.

It seems in recent times any event that takes place is looked at on a macro level. Where, Why, and By Whom are our focuses.  The person or persons that the event happened to are nothing more than a statistic or a part of the death toll.  Do we live in a society that believes the human experience is less important? Or are we afraid of hearing the real affects of such events, those not fix up and glorified by Hollywood.

As a third party to their conversation, I don’t know all the details.  I just noticed his awkward body language and the people in the waiting area looking uncomfortable while trying not to listen to their conversation. The interviewer showed no knowledge of how to handle a delicate human interview. I am sure they agreed to meet and he agreed to talk about the event, but I feel that the interviewer displayed a gross lack of ethical principles.  While I am sure she will develop those skills in her program, there are plenty who will spend their lives treating people this way.

A person’s traumatic experience, no matter how public or private it was, is their own.  Prying the event from them for selfish curiosity is wrong. When a person reveals that they are a trauma surviver, they should be treated with respect. If they decide to tell their story, many do so knowing that they will be willingly inflicting pain on themselves. Interest in the event is understandable, but ignoring the human behind it is neglecting most of the story.


  1. I wonder if it’s just a student lack of consideration and professionalism, or if it’s just a journalism thing. I was interviewed by a journalism student, and out interview was on campus at the Starbucks, while tons of students were sitting around. It was really awkward.

    1. Having no background in Journalism, I can only hope that they are taught interviewing techniques. I would hate to be interviewed about anything in a crowded area, that would make even the most mundane topic feel awkward. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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