RPRY eighth grade students prepared to craft interview questions for the survivors who will participate in this year’s “Names, Not Numbers©” program. The interviews and filming are planned for the week of February 6, 2023, with the community screening of the film scheduled for May 31.
To prepare the students for this challenging and sensitive interview process, Rob Solomon, a retired journalist, teacher and coach, led an in-depth interviewing skills workshop for the students. Solomon guided the students through different levels of questioning, by presenting them with progressively more detailed information about himself as the basis for their questions and by teaching the students about the parts of a good interview. The students learned about the difference between a news story and a feature story; how to create questions based on research; how to compose questions that elicit detailed responses and using words like “describe” and “tell me about it”; and how to move the story line with questions like “what happened next?”
Additional pointers to help the students create a meaningful connection with the survivor included starting with basic factual questions to develop rapport, omitting prepared questions that might be redundant, always looking at the interviewee when asking questions or listening to answers, and being an active listener—which is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding.
The workshop concluded with student volunteers who implemented what they learned with a short interview of Solomon. The students’ interview questions reflected their understanding of the principles of an effective and sensitive interview. They are now ready to begin researching the survivors’ biographies and preparing their own questions for the interviews, which they will also be filming in February.