Sunday, November 2, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Interviewing Drunk People

Danielle Sills

Every once in a while, the time comes when reporters know they will be covering an event or story that involves drinking. And when events involve drinking, it's likely that they will be dealing with some drunk people. When I found out that Athens MidDay reporter Shana O'Malley and I would be covering a story about a beer garden, I knew what we could expect.

Our story about the beer garden focused on why the city would integrate a fenced-off area near Court Street into the yearly Halloween street festival. Furthermore, we wanted to know if the idea was a success among both party goers and the city officials who ran it. Yet the real people that we needed to interview were the ones who were "enjoying" themselves at the beer garden.

That brings me to my point.
-How can I prepare to interview drunk people?
-How should I actually handle the interviews?

The Preparation

Some things that I have found to be helpful include
-Having an easygoing attitude.
---Interviewing drunk people can easily create an awkward situation. But if I go into the situation willing to roll with the punches and brush off discomfort, I am more likely to enjoy the experience.
-Being able to laugh.
---This is a good example of a way that I keep cool during an interview. When something odd happens, I tell myself to laugh instead of cringe.

The Process

-Going with the flow.

---When a drunk person makes an inappropriate comment or responds awkwardly to a question, I found that it is easiest to smile, nod, and pretend it didn't happen. The person you are interviewing will usually move on, too.
-Know when to cut someone off.
---The reporter should always be in control of the interview. When the interviewee goes too far or starts asking me questions, I know it's time to thank him or her and move on to the next interview.

The Result

Shana and I stayed positive and laughed together as if the whole interview process was an adventure. We kept control of the interviews through awkward comments and moments. As a result our interviews gave us some great information without losing the interviewees' senses of humor.

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