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Interview: ‘yes’ or ‘no’

December 23, 2009 2 comments

A friend called me to speak on BBC Radio. The thought of giving an interview, especially one that would be broadcast live to thousands or even millions of listeners scared the shit out of me. Shall I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?

Source: Jason Ralston

I was dreaming something when the call woke me up.

“Yong, what do you think of the Copenhagen Accord? Want to join our live talking tonight at 18:00 to 19:00?”

It was Jessica. She is doing one-week internship in BBC World Service, Chinese Service. She was trying to secure some interviewees for a BBC programme.

We discussed about the topic and I figured out what they wanted:

  • opinions on the climate summit from a Chinese;
  • how the summit was reported in the Chinese media; and
  • what did the general Chinese people say about the outcome.

“Do I have that much information they need?”
“Is my English good enough to go live on BBC radio?”
“What kind of image shall I present about the Chinese media?”
And, “what if I said something wrong?”

Many questions flashed in my mind. I even thought of those people whom I contacted asking for interviews for my TV and radio assignments.

“Did they think about the same things as I had?” I wondered.

“Yes” or “no”

Jessica was waiting for my confirmation on the other side of the phone. There wasn’t much time for me to hesitate.

“Okay, as long as they don’t mind that I am a Chinese journalist.” I told her.

I said ”yes”, for the sake of myself and Jessica.

This would be my first live interview. No matter how scared I might feel, my consciousness told me that I had to do this. If I don’t take the first time, there will never be a second time.

I also thought about Jessica. I could even imagine how much she needed a “yes” answer after making so many calls to secure someone for the interview. Her editor might be whipping her to get things done. (I made myself seem noble, eh?)

How did the interview go?

Well, I couldn’t tell you how the interview was.

It never happened.

From 17:30 until 19:00, I checked my mobile phone 4 or 5 times to make sure it has signal. I thought about the interview and couldn’t focus on anything else.

I looked into the mirror and tried to speak as I was being interviewed. Then I wrote down some key points. And then, I just sat and waited.

After 19:00, my phone haven’t rung at all. At last, I was sure they wouldn’t call.

Why? Possible reasons included:

  • mobile phone is never good for live interview
  • other interviews went too long and squeezed out my time slot
  • my identity as a Chinese journalist might be a concern
  • they found someone else who went into their studio (as I was not physically available)

I’m proud of myself

I felt relieved and happy. You might understand why I felt relieved, but why happy?

Well, I was happy because I said “yes” in the first place. I felt proud of myself. I didn’t have to regret that I didn’t have the guts to go live on a BBC English programme.

True, this could be a small piece of cake for you, and some of you might even dream of having such an opportunity.

But for me, it was not. I dared myself, and the go-for-challenges me knocked over the shy me. It was a glorious battle I won.

I might despise myself if I said “no” in the first place, no matter whether the interview went as scheduled or not.

Something I neglected before

In fact, the aborted interview made me think about interview again.

When we approach people asking them to give an interview, do we ever think about their worries or concerns? Have we ever put ourselves in their shoes?

When I did my TV interviews, I contacted people from Harrow council, the NHS primary care trust, a hospital, and many other institutions. Why was it so difficult to get their “yes”? Some even looked frightened when they saw my video camera and tripod. Did I ever think of it, that people might be scared of speaking on TV?

After all, it’s not about what we need, but what they can or are willing to give.

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BBC College of Journalism website launched

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

BBC launched its College of Journalism website on 14 December. From staff journalists to part-time journalists, an era of pan-journalists has finally come.

BBC CoJo

BBC CoJo Snapshot

The website, also called CoJo, was created three years ago, but its access has been limited to BBC staffs until this Monday. Now, all people in the UK can visit the site.

As CoJo first director Vin Ray says, CoJo is to “design and deliver training and learning for BBC journalists in the UK and around the world.”

However, CoJo is not just for BBC journalists. It suits everyone who is interested in telling their own stories in a journalistic manner.

Why go public?

Martin Moore, Director of The Media Standards Trust, explained the importance of the launch of CoJo website.

CoJo teaches the public about principle of journalism. To put in a way that the general public can better understand, it is about trust, trust in what you publish on the web: bbs, blogs, facebook, youtube, among others.

Working journalists or student journalists who are already familiar with these principles can reflect on their practice using guidance provided by CoJo, nevertheless, they may find the skills part more useful.

For the general public who contributed a big part to the avalanche of information over Internet, CoJo website offers the most substantial online sources for journalistic practice.

What comes next?

Everybody can tell a story. The development of technology has substantially diversified the ways of telling a story.

Many years ago, it was the job of an extremely limited group of people who were called journalists.

The wide application of Internet created hundreds of millions of bloggers. Sometimes it is hard to tell the differences between bloggers and journalists.

Nowadays, anyone who can write, speak or film can be an amateur journalist. They can write blogs, post pictures, upload podcasts, or publish video clips.

Some of their stores were indeed used by the mainstream media.

For journalists, it might be the worst of time as they will be competing with all people to get their stories published or aired; but for the public, it might be the best of times.