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Interview workshop teaches attendees the importance of research

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On Thursday, the Sacramento Press hosted a workshop to help writers get the most out of their interviews by discussing pre-interview techniques, how to create better questions and how to make the subject feel comfortable during the process.

Guest Speaker Rick Ele was a DJ and radio host for 17 years for the freeform community radio station KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis. Ele has interviewed over 100 bands, musicians, authors and more. Even though he is no longer a primary DJ and host for the station, he still volunteers to host a show about once a month.

"(My goal is) helping people find an ounce of courage to develop a rapport, do the research, which conveys you’ve put that effort into it and it will command some respect. (The respect) Can come back to you with better answers. The band or person (is more likely to) invest more in you to share those answers," Ele said.

Ele discussed to the 21 attendees the importance of preparing for an interview. Several tips included researching your interviewee, finding something unique about the subject that hasn’t been covered by the media, and practicing your interview beforehand.

"People respect that you’ve researched them. They can repay that respect with real answers, not just canned responses," Ele said.

In the beginning Ele discussed interview icebreaking techniques such as making the interviewee comfortable. By making the person being interviewed feel comfortable, it is more likely that they will open up and give more detailed answers, he added.

Another tip included avoiding cliché first lines like "tell us about yourself," and entertaining light conversation to ease any tension.

When talking about good interview questions versus bad ones, Ele said that cliché questions get cliché answers. Recreating a basic, vague question such as "What are your influences?" into "How have your influences changed over time?" will yield a much greater response and will avoid the cliché, Ele added.

Toward the end, Ele involved the audience with a reenactment of a real interview, where an audience member pretended to be the interviewer and Ele was the interviewee. Ele stopped the reading several times to point out why certain questions worked, didn’t work and what types of reactions can come from good or bad questions.

"(The interviewee in the script) was not comfortable going back to talk about why he stopped playing several years ago and stopped giving detailed answers. He was opening up when talking about what was currently happening," Ele explained.

Marketing and Communications Intern at The American Lung Association of California Baryo Dee, said that she came to the workshop in order to learn about interviewing, how to build a rapport and the process of developing storylines.

"I came to this workshop to strengthen communications skills and my news writing skills. I think hearing from a seasoned professional on how they are able to build a rapport and develop a storyline is helpful," Dee said.

Dee said that she felt the workshop was useful and would attend another one.

Assistant City Manager of Sacramento John Dangberg said he came to the workshop in order to learn ice-breaking techniques and more about interviewing from the interviewer standpoint, since he is often the interviewee.

"If this is about breaking the ice in interviews, and I’m ever in an interview with a reporter who’s having trouble with (breaking the ice) that I’ll be able to help them out with that," Dangberg said.

Dangberg said that he enjoyed the workshop and took away information on interpersonal communications for interviews.

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