Lakeland High School

NHS Service Project Responsibilities

Witness to History - Group Responsibilities

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As interviewers, you need to come up with a list of questions to ask your subject. All questions must be approved be approved by Ms. Lozinski!  You must also consult with your historians about questions they will have for you to ask as well.  Please read the handouts on how to conduct a good interview.  Be prepared, but flexible.  Treat your subjects with the utmost respect!!!! Please ask your subject to sign a waiver before you begin the interview. (See suggestions for good interviews below). Interviewers need to type out the questions and answers to provide a full text of the interview in their project.  It should be attached to your project at the end. You should record or videotape the full interview so that you can have all the information and use parts of it in written form or video form in your documentary.


There will be a training session for the interviewers with Ms. Lozinski  (TBA) in the Computer Lab.  BOTH of your team members MUST be there!

12 Ways To Conduct A Great Interview from Six Pixels of Separation:

  1. Don't conduct an interview, have a conversation. One of the biggest mistakes people make in the interview setting is to conduct it like it appears in a magazine (question and answer). Don't make that mistake. Forget about the questions, per se and have a comfortable conversation. Keyword: comfortable.
  2. Do your homework. Know your subject, know the issues and know what the public would want to know if they could sit down with the subject matter.  Keep it interesting.
  3. Don't stick to your agenda. To make matters worse, most interviewers follow the questions that they have lined up in the order they wrote them, instead of letting it flow based on what the subject is saying. I've seen many great follow-up conversations and side-tracks lost because the interviewer was following their flow instead of the flow of the conversation.
  4. Have notes, not questions. It's ok to have some notes about concepts you would like to discuss, but don't hold it in your hand and look down at it - that will break the conversation and turn it into an interview.
  5. Ask open ended questions. Always start your questions or commentary with words like "how" and "why". Those two words can never be responded to with the words, "yes" or "no". If you want something more than one or two word answers, use words like "how" and "why".
  6. Open arms. Do your best to have nothing blocking you from your subject matter. This includes objects like recorders, pens, coffee tables, etc... In an ideal world, keep your arms open and your heart aimed at the subject matter's heart. I do not know why this works, but it does create a much more human connection - let nothing get in the way.
  7. If you're going to record it... start training yourself now to not say things like, "ummm" and "ahhhh." While it sounds natural in everyday chitter chatter, those little vocal stumbles sound extra annoying if you plan on publishing the audio file, and it's even more frustrating if you have to transcribe the audio to text. It's one of the hardest things to do, but be conscious of it.
  8. Don't say anything. This is an old journalism trick, but it works wonders. Many people have been interviewed many times and they know the questions they are most likely to be asked, so their answers are practiced and canned. If you want to get a little bit more out of them or something original, wait for five seconds after they finish their last sentence and do not say anything. More often than not, that moment of silence will get them thinking and they'll start speaking from their heart (and with a whole other perspective than their standard canned answers).
  9. Watch the clock. Try not to go over thirty minutes. You should be able to capture everything you need in fifteen minutes or less.
  10. Be the ambassador for your audience. Don't forget that your role as the interviewer is to ask the questions that your mass public would want the answer to if they could be in that room. They can't be there. You are. Be their ambassador. Ask the questions they want answered.
  11. Don't just take notes. Old school journalists don't record anything, they just take notes. Personally, I find it very distracting, and the act of taking notes separates you from the subject matter. You wind up focusing way too much on the note-taking or the typing instead of what matters most: the person in front of you.  There's nothing more annoying than when a journalists says, "hold on, can you please slow down so that I can get this all written down." If that doesn't kill the flow, I don't know what does.
  12. Appreciate the experience.  Be appropriate, respectful and mindful of the tone and the subject matter of the interview.  React accordingly.  If you're stressed or focused on your notebook and the questions in it, your subject will "feel it" and will pick up on your nerves or apprehension. Remember that the best conversations are the authentic conversations.

9 Tips on Conducting Great Interviews from Forbes Magazine

In my career, I have conducted thousands of interviews, been interviewed hundreds of times and as a media consultant, I have also observed thousands of interviews from a neutral seat. There are a few tips that have worked consistently well for me and perhaps they will help you. I write this from a media professional’s point of view, but I think many of these points are applicable to business and employment interviews as well.

1. Start slow, safe and personal. 
I usually begin with a question that focuses on the person and not the topic at hand, such as: “Where did you grow up,” or “what was your first job out of college?” First off, you relax your subject and you humanize the interaction. This relaxes the atmosphere, starts the conversation on safe ground, and let’s you get a sense of the where your subject is coming from.  Second, you sometimes get a surprisingly good story.

2. Coax, don’t hammer.
The “shock jock” interviewer may get daytime TV audiences to cheer and jeer, but chances are your audience is too sophisticated and businesslike for such low-rent tactics. I prefer interviews who have the up-close, but soft style that coaxes, revealing, newsworthy, useful answers. For that reason, I am a huge fan of NPR’s Terry Gross, host of the long-running Fresh Air. She coaxes the most revealing content out of her subjects, by adopting a very personal rapport and asking questions, in a “c’mon, you can tell me” style. People tell her the most amazing stuff. I’ll bet a few of them later wonder whatever possessed them to reveal certain matters on national television.

3. Make some questions open ended.
All interviews require you to ask specific questions that get answered with narrow data points. “What was you last job title?” But, in my experience, the most interesting responses I get come from open-ended questions, such as, “What is your vision for your organization five years from today?” or one of my current favorites, “Do you worry about any unintended consequences from what you are trying to accomplish?”

Years ago, I interviewed Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace a controversial segregationist running for the  presidential nomination. I was no fan of his, but made it my business not to show my personal animosity. I asked him what he thought the voters of Massachusetts shared in common with him. “They are as tired as I am of big government stomping on hard-working folk’s butts,” he said. This is a tired old saw today, but that interview may be the first time a candidate personified “big government” bullying everyday people. Wallace almost won that Massachusetts primary. His campaign sent me a thank you note for giving Wallace the chance to state his case. I have regretted it ever since, but it was where I learned my job was to get the interviewee to tell his story and let the readers decide what they think of his or her ideas.

4. Ask what you don’t know.
There’s a lawyer’s tip that advises you to only ask witnesses questions that you already know the answers to. I do the opposite. I ask questions on issues where I am clueless what the answer will be. Lawyers hate surprises. As a journalist–or reader–I love them. Surprises mean I have something that has not been previously reported.

5. Let the interviewees wander a bit–but be careful.
Interviewers, in my view, try too hard to control the conversation, when the person in the other seat is the one who can produce the news.

I recently watched Oprah Winfrey interview Sean Penn in a Haitian refugee camp on television. Penn was in an uncharacteristically reflective mood. He obviously wanted to talk about the recent dissolution of his marriage but Winfrey changed the subject on him. Then he wanted to talk about the suffering of children, but she changed subjects on him again. After that Penn seemed bored and detached. I don’t blame him.

6.  Don’t send advance questions.
Sometimes, time requires me to send email questions, and then I get written answers in return. These are often adequate but the result is rarely as good as a face-to-face, candid interaction.  If I am going to have face time, I make clear the topics that I wish to cover and even ask if there are other subjects the interviewee would like to discuss.

But I don’t send questions in advance. The result feels far too scripted, and the answers start feeling like they were written by a committee. The result is that very little new ground is covered. It also eliminates my beloved follow-up questions, the ones that drill down on what was or was not said in the response. Very often, the follow up question produces the lead to the story I report.

7. Be prepared. Find the overlooked.
I used to spend days researching before conducting an interview. Thanks to Google, that has been reduced to approximately an hour. I see what the subject has told other reporters and bloggers and I figure out what can be added to those previous conversations. I also look in forgotten cubbyholes. In searches I often go back to always go to result pages 3, 4 and 5, where I may find surprisingly interesting content that no one else has recently looked at.

I go into the room know the topics I want to discuss and trying not waste time of asking for answers recently discussed. But I do look for updates and I do look for the questions that someone else forgot to ask. I recently was scheduled to interview Yammer CEO David Sachs for my Forbes column. I had planned to ask him about his $25,000 hiring bonus to Yahoo employees. Unfortunately, in the preceding week , other reporters got to ask him all about it. I read them all and started my interview by asking Sachs how many resumes he had received and how many offers he had made. As a result, I got a small scoop, by asking the missed question.

Quite often, a subject’s response to one question begs for a follow up. Many times the follow-up question reveals more than either the interviewer or interviewee expected. You just can’t make that happen when you are following a script. When you do that, your mind very often goes on to your next question and you are not listening carefully to what your subject is saying.

I do come prepared and I let my subject know what subjects I want to cover. I also ask if there are other topics she or he would like me to add. I even jot a few topics down to make sure I remember them. But I do not write down questions and I stay poised to change directions and topics based on what my subjects are saying.

 8. Listen, really listen.
 The value of my interviews comes out of what people say, not what I ask. If I ask a question and the subject drifts off, there is often a good reason. I can get feisty and retort “Please answer my question,” or I can see where the person wants to go.  If it’s into an area that might interest my readers, then I let the subject wander. They key is to pay close attention to what is not answered and make on-the-spot judgments on why that area was skipped or glossed. Was it uninteresting to the subject? Unimportant? Painfully embarrassing?

9. There are dumb questions.
Try not to ask a question that your subject has already answered. It discloses that you really weren’t listening after all. Also try not to answer any questions that are answered in the interviewee’s online bios or company FAQ.

And remember above all, the interview is about the person you are talking to, not about you. It’s your job to reveal them, not to build them up or cut them down. Good night and good luck.


Historical Researchers
Your job as historical researchers is to provide a historical context for the event and to help your audience understand what was happening at the time that the event occurred.  Please keep in mind that the event occurred, but reactions to that event vary.  History is as much about the event as it is about the reactions to the event.  Be aware of and ready to document the different facets, factions and feeling evoked from the event.

Your research should be done using legitimate sources.  Sources should be primary documents, photographs (lots of photographs!) and artifacts if possible.  If your subject has artifacts he or she is willing to share, please document them in photographs.

Your group is responsible for two things: helping the documentarians by establishing a well-rounded historical perspective of the event and providing information and images (many pictures!) for the documentary and secondly, creating the display for the reception in the spring.  Please get a picture with your group members and your interview subject and include it in part of your display or documentary.

There will be a training session with Mr. Merriam (TBA) in the Library. BOTH of your team members MUST be there!

The documentarians’ job is to create a 10-15 minute “documentary” about the person you interviewed.  There are a variety of software packages available to you to use.  Ideally, you want to work with your historians and interviewers to determine how you want to organize and present your ideas.  The possibilities are endless.  Above all, your goal is to document the extraordinary life that your subject has lived and bear witness to the unique moment in history that they, he\she has experienced.  Share your subject’s story!

There will be training and support sessions with Linda Brandon, Manager of Instructional Technology to help you in assembling your film.  BOTH team members MUST be present for training sessions!

Give yourself plenty of time to create your documentary. I would set aside group time in January and February to work together to figure out how you want to present your topic and allow your documentarians plenty of time to assemble the final project.