The Pressure of My First Interview

I had never interviewed anyone alone until I interviewed Maria Calcaben from the PODER Learning Center.

I’m new to this whole journalism thing. Sure, I’m a Mass Communication major, but I never thought I would actually be reporting anything. I’m not accustomed to asking follow-up questions and I haven’t perfected my writers’ scribe yet. I’m still getting used to the process of recording my whole interview and spending double the time transcribing it.

When I went to interview Calcaben, I had questions for her, but I had no idea if I was going to get the answers I was looking for. Would I step on her toes by asking her too personal of a question? Would I misinterpret something she said? I was nervous – to the point of making myself sick. No one would be there to fill in the blanks I missed. I was on my own, but luckily I researched a few tips and pointers before diving in headfirst. The University of Southern Maine offers interviewing tips that were beneficial to my first interviewing experience. A few of my favorites included:

  • Take Time to Prepare – think about your goals, get your questions ready, and try out your equipment to be sure it is operating properly.”
  • Get the Story – your job is to help the person uncover and share the richness, depth, connectedness, and overall meaning in their life.”
  • An Interview is Not a Conversation – it should be informal and loose, but the other person is the one doing the talking; you are providing questions, and seeking depth, when necessary.”
  • Be Responsive and Flexible – be sincerely interested in what the other person has to say, and show it, while being able to go with the flow.”
  • Look For Connections – help the person find the overall meaning or central themes in their life story.”

Walking into the PODER Learning Center was nerve wrecking. I could feel my heart beating against my chest as I went to find Calcaben. I sat down at a table while I waited and took in my surroundings. There was color in every direction and the sun was shining in through the windows. I relaxed a little when Calcaben greeted me with a warm smile and hearty handshake. I thought to myself, “Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”

Maria Calcaben at the PODER Learning Center, a community center withing the San Marcos Housing Authority in San Marcos, Texas. Photo by Jesse Louden/VocieBox Media

Maria Calcaben at the PODER Learning Center, a community center withing the San Marcos Housing Authority in San Marcos, Texas. Photo by Jesse Louden/VocieBox Media

Interviewing Calcaben was great. She was genuinely excited to have me there, which put me at ease. It turns out that interviewing someone is not as bad as it may seem, especially when the interviewee is passionate about what he/she is talking about. Calcaben talked endlessly about the children and the programs the PODER offers, often telling me stories full of information I didn’t expect to get. I enjoyed listening to her speak about her role at the Learning Center and her experience with the youth it serves.

I’m still no pro when it comes to interviewing people and I know I have a very long way to go. I can think of multiple things I didn’t do correctly, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one who noticed. I guess I just need to trust my gut and believe I really can do this.

It’s satisfying listening to someone speak about something they care so much about. I have a lot to learn, but through this experience, I gained a new appreciation for people who have a story they want to share and a whole new love for journalism.

{To learn more about the youth living in poverty in San Marcos and PODER Learning Center, read our story.}

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