What I learned about interviewing my professor: the do’s & don’ts

Podcasts have always been something I’ve enjoyed listening to. They’re kind of an escape for me when school is too crazy and I’ve become bored of my music selection (Weezer’s Blue Album and The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds are on constant repeat on my iPod). So when I decided to take a class devoted to making podcasts I was both excited and petrified.

How would I be able to make something that sounded even remotely close to the podcasts I’ve grown to love and admire? (Those being WTF with Marc Maron, This American Life, The Champs, and The Sporkful)

But I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to give it my best effort and get some unique audio out into the world. One thing that I’ve learned that I will be able to take away with me once this class ends is how to prepare for, record and edit an interview with professors (and just people in general I suppose).

For my first segment I decided to interview my newswriting professor, Chuck Bauerlein. I knew I wanted him as an interview subject just by having him as a professor every other day. His personality was that of a jokester, one who see flaws in the system he works for and is keenly adept at pointing them out and providing thought-out solutions.

My “do’s” for an interview with a professor or anyone else you decide to sit down with are as follows:

  • Start recording before you walk into the room.

I did this during my interview with Chuck and you’d be surprised how much gold is waiting for you before you even start asking questions. The awkward introductions, shuffling of papers, and in my case, Chuck giving me instructions on how to commence the interviewing process (in a nice way of course). I was able to edit that pre-interview audio into my segment and it truly gave it a sense that the listener was right there with me and Chuck.

  • Look at the person you’re interviewing and try to have a genuine conversation.

Being the “Type A” person that I am, of course I went into the interview with Chuck prepared with questions. But the interview will sound a lot smoother and more natural to the listener if you focus less on the notes in your lap and more on the conversation happening right in front of you. You may end up hindering yourself if you limit the topics to what you have written down on paper, and that’s why the beautiful thing about conversation is that it can go anywhere in a matter of seconds. I’m not saying to not prepare. More like be in the moment when you are interviewing and the results with be better, I promise.

Here is the one “don’t” that I really want to stress to whoever decides to start a podcast.

  • Don’t freak out over the editing process.

It took me close to six hours to edit my first segment with Chuck. And that segment was only 5 minutes. Total. Editing is a time-consuming process so do not (as easy as it might seem) stress too much about it. Breaking the process up into segments helps a lot. It will take time but if you take time and breaks in between it can end up being a fun activity.

Here’s the link to the first episode in which I interview Chuck.

I had a great time learning the basics of podcasting and now can confidently say that I feel ready to take on Marc Maron. Ok, maybe not that confident but only time will tell.

Cordially,

Rachel Alfiero

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