While she was a student at the Transom Story Workshop last fall, Sally Helm found herself navigating one of the hardest aspects of interviewing: lead or let go.
How much control should you exercise? Do you take charge or let the conversation develop organically? Do you interrupt an interviewee or just let them talk? How long do you let a conversation veer off topic? How much can you push back and challenge?
You don’t need to be a student to struggle with those issues. I think most reporters encounter this tension. In fact, Robert Smith of Planet Money visited during the Transom Workshop Sally attended. And, one night during his visit, Robert, Jay Allison, and the class were chatting after dinner about interviewing and Sally remembers the discussion turned to this topic.
Sally utilized the “farmer method” for her first story which was about a sculptor. In hindsight, while she understands its benefits, she wasn’t pleased with the outcome. The interviews ran long and she should have challenged the sculptor more.
Sally started off using the “farmer method” reporting her second story on the 1977 Martha’s Vineyard secession movement. That, too, didn’t pan out.
Sally explains much more about her interview experiences on this edition of HowSound. And, we feature her Martha’s Vineyard secession story in its entirety. You can find out more about Sally, as well as the piece, here.