Brace Yourself

(This is me after dealing with my hostile source)

Today was my first experience with a hostile interviewee. Not exactly sure the circumstances behind their hostility but in my pre-interview I had laid out the general questions I would be asking. I could have conducted this interview over the phone or even by email, but I enjoy the exchange that can only be had in a face to face. We met at a coffee shop but they wanted to have it outside, I had no problem with that as I had dressed for a brisk morning. The interview started off as most do, I asked them to give me their name and the correct spelling. It all went downhill from there. My first question regarding their thoughts on Suicide and its portrayal in the media seemed to irk them. Remember, they knew what I was interviewing them for and had the opportunity to pass. They answered with a sort of annoyed disregard. I jotted down my notes in my notepad but because it started to spit rain I decided to switch to my iPad and voice recorder as they are protected from the elements. They gave me a condescending look and said, “Are you trying to show off?” I was quite taken aback by that comment and replied that I didn’t want to ask them to go inside as they had asked to be outside and were gracious enough to spare their free time. I tried to continue but but at the same time considering using a different source. I asked two more questions and then they said something that made me cut the interview short. They interrupted my question, blurting out, “Are you not taking this seriously?”
I thanked them for their time, packed up my gear and left. I was furious. I’m not sure how I should have reacted in that situation but in the moment leaving seemed like the right move. I didn’t have nearly enough information, nor did I feel comfortable using them as a source, but that was beside the point. They wasted my time and theirs and for what? To throw a few jabs at someone who they will probably never see again? It made no sense to me and I walked away disenfranchised.
At the beginning of my semester I was told by my professor to treat every interviewee, source, photography subject, like they are the most important person you will ever use. That this might be your hundredth interview of the day but for them it may be the one and only time they are ever quoted, photographed, sourced for a publication. They will probably buy every copy to show their friends and family. It might be the highlight of their life Not this one. They seemed more interested in being hostile than being heard. Plus I was not going to be accused of not taking this seriously.
I made the long trek to school thinking about what had just transpired. I was extremely frustrated but mostly confused. I re-read my questions and our pre-interview and nothing seemed to indicate a problem. I’m not sure how many more times I will have to deal with this type of source but I can tell you that next time I will not be caught off guard.

One comment

  1. Chelzey says:

    That’s absolutely terrible. I haven’t run into a hostile source yet, but I would have done the same thing and just left the situation behind. Journalism is not a very pleasant profession!

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