I had my first interview today for my profile with Gospel Mission. With one interview under my belt, and four more to go this week, I tried to read each assigned piece for Wednesday very carefully. I was most intrigued by Larissa MacFarquhar’s presentation about The New Yorker Profile. She made a lot of good points that I think will be very helpful in my upcoming interviews, especially the two interviews involving clients of Gospel Mission.
MacFarquhar talks about how it’s important to remind subjects that the interview is not a friendly conversation -- we, as reporters, want something from them. I think the most useful tip was her point about not filling the silence. People, myself included, are uncomfortable with long periods of silence during a conversation -- we find the situation and ourselves awkward, so we jump to a new subject to avoid this momentary discomfort. MacFarquhar, on the other hand, invites us to embrace this awkward silence. She states: “If you shut up, they have to speak.” I was really fascinated by this suggestion and am going to try to restrain myself in my upcoming interviews, and encourage my subjects to tell their stories.
I was also interested by her viewpoint of first person. She states: “I feel that even one use of ‘I,’ the first person, interrupts.” She compares the writer’s use of first person to a director leaning in front of the camera-- “It has broken the illusion.” I think I tend to agree with her, although I think LeBlanc’s use of first person worked well in the particular instance of ‘Trina and Trina.’ Overall, the Sinatra profile and this presentation reinforced the dedication it takes to make a good profile. MacFarquhar states that it takes approximately 2 months for each story: one week spent with the person; three weeks preparing/studying up on subject; week transcribing tape; four or five days to writ time. Given all of the details and scenarios shared in the Sinatra profile I would imagine it took around the same amount of time to create such an amazing piece of writing.