About  |  Membership  |  Contact

New season of JJA webinars begins

Got a tough subject? JJA interviewers’ tips on breaking the ice

Feb 4th, 2013 | By

The JJA’s second season of online webinars begins Tuesday, February 19, at 8 pm EST, with writer Geoffrey Himes, a winner of the Deems Taylor/ASCAP Award for music journalism, and Los Angeles-based radio-show host Eddie Becton among the panelists discussing “How to Interview Tough

Geoffrey Himes

Eddie Becton

Subjects.” The webinar is free, and open to the public, but attendees must register in advance (to do so, go to http://bit.ly/TAOWbr). [The webinar  recording  is now posted online ]Howard Mandel, president of the JJA who has conducted hundreds of interviews for articles and National Public Radio segments, will moderate.

As suggested by JJA vice-president Yvonne Ervin, editor of Hot House magazine, “How to Interview Tough Subjects” will probe into topics including:

  • Breaking the ice with an interviewee
  • Developing questions — do’s and don’ts
  • Going from the general to the specific
  • How to keep an interviewee engaged
  • What to do when an interviewee a) talks to much? b) talks too little
  • How to broach “sensitive subjects”?
  • How to keep an interviewee coming back — leaving he door open for further interviews, developing the interviewee as an ongoing source
  • When is it right to use humor?
  • What type of questions get thoughtful feedback, instead of standard and tired responses?

Panelist Becton is the host of “Jazz Journey” on KXLU, Los Angeles, and recalls among his most challenging interview
subjects pianist Ahmad Jamal, singer-composer Abbey Lincoln, and 30+-year politician Kirkland Leroy Irvis, a former Speaker of the House for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. “Among my tasks,” Becton remembers, “were how do I get him to trust me? – as you know, seasoned politicians are not usually willing to “give up” the floor to someone else, and how do I get him to answer my questions instead of what he wants me to ask? I was in grad school at the time, and Irvis had already been there/done that. But this interview led to a series of interviews, and we ended up being on great terms.” Becton also sites as tricky an interview he did with L.A. saxophonist Chuck Johnson, “a hell of a player, but not exactly verbose! Initially, it was like pulling teeth, so I had to devise strategies to get him to talk.

Himes, a former editor of No Depression magazine who has written about jazz, blues, country and pop music for the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, the Oxford American, Crawdaddy, DownBeat, City Paper  and many other periodicals, mentions his interviews with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard  and a counterpoint with Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau (both for JazzTimes) and another interview with New Orleans singer John Boutté for  Offbeat as pieces that “were challenging but ultimately successful interviews.” He got Hubbard to speak of his embouchure problems, righted himself with Boutté after drawing a quick demurral when he called Hurricane Katrina “the storm,” and persuaded Metheny with Mehldau to analyze what they meant by melody.

“How to Interview Tough Subjects,” like all JJA webinars, will be archived for access after-the-fact. For further information, contact Howard Mandel, president@jazzjournalists.org.



• • •

Filed In: Headliners

Leave a Comment