When the Interviewer is Interviewed / by craig levers

There is something that's been bugging me for a while now, this week it came to a head after I got interviewed for a photography website based out of Los Angeles. I'd like to throw it over to you, you're welcome to hit me back with your thoughts. Here's my rationale; 

I have interviewed and profiled a lot of surfers over the years. Firstly for NZ Surfing Mag, then for Surf 2 Surf, Go-Surf and 09 Magazine. I like reading a good interview, one that informs the reader about the character. A thoughtful question will often challenge the interviewee, but those answers are the real ones, the ones that share insight and thought processes. 

To be really honest most of the interviews I have done have fallen short of that mark. I've towed the line, a perceived line, that you don't want to rock the boat or risk surfers' relationships with their sponsors. Most surf mags fall into this trap, they forget that the interview is for the readers' benefit, not to keep the surfer or the industry happy. They end up being promotional fluff that would be more suited for the sponsors' website. There's nothing wrong with that type of interview, they have their place. My conviction is that if surf mags met their readers' needs they wouldn't be suffering the reader drain they are now. Sure there'd be the commercial pressure from the industry to present the sanitised 'good look'.  But ultimately those advertisers should be advertising WHERE the readers are. The readers would give brands cred for doing so. 

It's tough to be THAT type of interviewer, and again to be really honest, I'm not sure I have the mental fortitude to be constantly THAT guy. To be asking the prickly questions, then fielding and defending your motives, and possibly alienating yourself from your tribe. It is easier to just go surfing. But it's something that's lacking in Surf Media... I hasten to add this is not about sensational tabloid journalism, it's not about only going after the underside, but not sanitised either. Just real, well researched, thoughtful, honest. Respect the readers' intellect to decipher and share the struggle and, hopefully, success of the human spirit. 

The Snapshot Galleria interview I did this week was nothing so dramatic. But knowing all of the above, when the table is turned and the interviewer becomes the interviewee there's a different approach. There's a strong awareness that the questions and answers are not a two way conversation, it's a three way interaction. Questions are an opportunity, a prompt, to share thoughts and information. I'd argue that the best person to interview is someone that's interviewed. I've been interviewed a fair bit now; in photography mags, travel websites, local newspapers and most recently on The Barkers website and mag. I'm a Kiwi, I hate putting my head up, it actually amazes me how engrained this is in us.   

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