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  • Writer's pictureRon Finnigan

Interviewing Paul

"Interviewing Paul" was a follow up blog to "The Fire-Breathing Undergraduate". This blog was originally published in October 2015.

When I agreed to do some interviews for the new CUSS blog, Humans of Carleton, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Fortunately my classmate Paul Campbell - the fire-breathing undergraduate - agreed to be my guinea pig. The experience was rewarding and fun and I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. The first thing we agreed on was the use of a recorder. I made a few notes to get Paul's name spelled correctly and some contact information so I could check facts, but then we just talked. I asked questions as they popped into my head, but I also had a vague roadmap of what I wanted to cover. I wanted to tell Paul's story - how he got to Carleton. I asked him about growing up, his family, his personal relationships. He told me about is work, his hobbies, his passions. We spoke for over an hour just getting to know one another, and I found myself really enjoying the conversation - even forgetting I was doing an interview. Fortunately, everything was recorded and after our meeting the real work began. as I listened to the recording, I began to see a story and created a mental outline of where the story would start and finish. My first draft was very rough, but had the basic structure and the seeds that would grow into the final story. I kept re-writing and revising. At the time of the interview, Paul was not dating but, since then, he has started a relationship so that was one of the paragraphs I revised before posting the final article. I also verified my facts with Paul and my mentor, Owen, proofread the copy for any grammatical or other composition errors. Interviewing someone is a tough writing assignment. There's a certain amount of planning and thinking about what questions you're going to ask. I had to ask myself questions like: "What is the story I'm going to tell here? What will people find interesting? How can I treat the person I am interviewing with respect and write an article that they will like too?" Editing the information was also difficult. Paul was very open during our discussion and shared so many wonderful anecdotes and personal experiences. It was difficult to leave some of them out of the article but it was also important to try to make the article flow and not get sidetracked. In the end any interview article will be a compromise of what to keep and what to leave out. I think the result is a good compromise. After I finished, I was apprehensive about whether other people would like what I wrote. Most importantly Paul did like it. When I'm writing, I tend to keep wanting to revise the language, paragraph order, style, etc., but at some point I just have to say "enough is enough" and stop. I enjoyed the interview. Being an interview reporter is a tough job, but it is also rewarding. Being able to take a large amount of data and then distilling it into a meaningful story was a great creative outlet for my writing. I hope I'm lucky enough to find other interview subjects as interesting and as fun to interview as Paul.

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