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Newsday Correspondent Jacqueline Rivkin Provides Interview Tips to Names Not Numbers Participants

By: Yehuda Brick ('13)

On Monday, our Names Not Numbers program had a guest speaker, Jacqueline Rivkin, come and talk to us about interviewing techniques for the program’s yearly project.  Jacqueline is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a writer for Newsday, and a teacher of journalism at the Macaulay Honors College.  She spoke to us about different techniques that we can use to keep our interviews focused on the information that we need, while still being sensitive and allowing our interviewees to feel comfortable. We learned about what types of questions we should be asking, as well as various tactics to obtain valuable facts and stories from the survivors.

After she spoke for a little more than half an hour, she asked one of us to come to the front of the classroom and perform a practice interview, with her acting as the interviewee.  At first no one, myself included, was willing to go up and do this with such short notice and no practice, but after some time past I raised my hand and decided to go for it. She handed me a piece of paper with her mother’s shortened biography and asked me to interview her as if she was her mother. After a little time had passed, she decided that the interview was too easy for me and, in order to make it more illustrative of an actual interview scenario, she decided to be a more difficult interviewee. She began to act as if certain questions were too emotional to discuss and became much shyer. This is where she expected what she had taught in the lecture to kick in. I had to make her feel more confident and comfortable as an interviewee by asking her simple, basic questions. After a couple of more questions the period ended and our time was up. I thanked her for the lecture, along with the tips, and she congratulated me for doing well with no practice.