Interviewing the Interviewer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 10, 2010
How do you interview one of the world’s foremost interviewers? As I prepared for this daunting task, I realized that it was not only the interview itself, but also the preparation that helps a journalist delve into the issues he or she is trying to report on. Interviewing is a complex process; it requires both curiosity and research to develop an understanding of the subject. The first step is to obtain information about the subject from a variety of resources. When I was contacted by the publisher of Teen Ink about interviewing Nicholas Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times columnist, author, and Rhodes scholar, I did not know very much about Mr. Kristof’s work. I had heard about some of his reporting in Africa and I had read a few of his columns, but I knew that I would need to do more research.

I began by reading his recently published book, Half the Sky, and started regularly following his New York Times column. I also watched “Reporter,” a feature-length documentary about Mr. Kristof, and an interview with Eric Metzgar, the director of the film, who worked closely with him.

As the day of the interview approached, I began to list some of the many questions that had come to me throughout the course of my research. After learning so much about Mr. Kristof, I wanted to ask questions that would allow me to learn more about him and his work, as well as questions that would challenge him.

On the day of the interview, I arrived at the New York Times building a few hours early so that I could review and organize all the questions. As I sat in the spacious cafeteria with the publisher of Teen Ink and Alicia, the other interviewer, we sorted through the questions, making “good” and “bad” piles. After narrowing down the “good” pile several times, we came up with a solid group of thought-provoking questions.

As I walked into Mr. Kristof’s office, I grew increasingly nervous. Yet he made me feel immediately at ease as he introduced himself with “Hi, I’m Nick Kristof,” and asked us questions about our own lives. He could understand our stress over college admissions, as one of his sons was also going through the process as well.

Obviously, it is critical for the interviewer to take accurate and complete notes in recording the interviewee’s responses. In this case, however, we had our meeting videotaped, thus allowing us to engage more fully with Mr. Kristof.

After the first few questions, I found myself so interested in his answers that I almost forgot that I was interviewing one of the world’s most accomplished journalists. By the end of the interview, I realized that Mr. Kristof’s experience interviewing world leaders, notorious warlords, and displaced and ­oppressed people around the globe made him a ­particularly good interviewee, too. I hope you find reading the interview as interesting as I found ­conducting it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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