In this reflection I will discuss Charlie Rose’s interviews with President Obama and Michael Moore. I will also discuss the lessons I learned from watching these interviews. In addition, I will discuss how the lessons learned will help me in conducting my own interviews with my study participants. Finally, I will end my reflection by reflecting back on the introduction part and the ending part of the interviews I saw.
While interviewing Michael Moore for the documentary entitled “Capitalism a Love Affair,” Mr. Rose started the interview by asking a general question, the focusing question. The question was, “What’s wrong with capitalism? I thought we all liked capitalism.” The question was very broad but at the same time very focused. The purpose of the question was to center the whole interview on the idea of capitalism — the good, the bad, and the in between. As Patton (2002a) points out, narrowing a complex issue into a singular burning question helps the researcher gain clarity and focus around the question itself. I feel as though Charlie Rose used a similar approach in his interview with Mr. Moore by narrowing a complex issue such as capitalism into one broad but targeted question. This question than got the respondent, in this case, Mr. Moore, to share his views of the benefits and drawbacks of capitalism. This approach helped the interview remain on topic and allowed Mr. Rose to elicit the interviewee’s perspective on a very complex topic.
In another interview, Charlie Rose discussed the developments in the Middle East with President Obama. The interview was centered on the Civil War in Syria, the elections in Iran, and the continued turmoil in Egypt. Since the topics he was exploring were not entirely connected around a single theme, Mr. Rose’s interview was conducted as more of a discussion as opposed to a question-answer format. What I learned from this interview was that not all interviews follow the same script. Some interview may take the form of a discussion with general leading questions. While others, may follow the question and answer format. Mr. Rose, in his interview with President Obama, was interested in eliciting the President’s views on a multitude of issues including peace, war, nuclear weapons, and American interests in the Middle East, and so he chose the methodology that would allow him to achieve this aim.
While interviews can be a great tool for data collection, like all data collection tools, they have strengths and weaknesses. Interviews can help the researcher explore the feelings and thoughts of the interviewee. However, interviews are subject to several limitations including “personal bias, anger, anxiety, politics, and the emotional state of the interviewee at the time of interview” (Patton, 2002b, p. 306). Other limitations include recall error and responses that are either self-serving or reflect a social desirability bias. In other words, respondents may not be willing to admit to engaging in behavior that goes against social norms and rules. As I prepare to conduct my own interviews, I feel that it is important for me to know the limitations and benefits associated with this method of data collection. Furthermore, since I am relying entirely on interviews for my exploratory study, it is important for me to be aware of the limitations inherent with this method of data collection so that I can take steps to minimize these limitations. For example, developing a good rapport with my respondents will be critically important to ensure participants are comfortable enough with me to share their perspectives in an open and honest manner and thereby reduce the risk of social desirability bias.
To conclude, I greatly enjoyed watching Mr. Rose conduct interviews. He obviously has a lot of skill in this area and I can learn many techniques for my own interviews by observing him. At the beginning of both interviews I observed, Mr. Rose began with simple, friendly, and directed questions that served to frame the focus of the interview. And, if there was more than one area of focus to the interview, Mr. Rose conducted a discussion rather than a question and answer type of interview. By actively listening to his interview subject, Mr. Rose indicated a clear interest in what the interviewee was saying and this helped him establish a strong rapport with the respondent. I intend to incorporate some of the techniques I witnessed Mr. Rose using in his interviews into the interviews I conduct as part of my own research. This will help me improve my questions, use a format that matches the aims of my interview, and ensure that I establish a good rapport with my participants so that they feel comfortable sharing their experiences using virtual labs with me.
Patton, M. Q. (2002a). Variety in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Patton, M. Q. (2002b). Fieldwork strategies and observation methods. Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.