Archive for the ‘Weekly Happenings’ Category

The Last Bite

Hello All,

I’m writing to say THANK YOU for making this student directed seminar a huge success. Firstly, people came to class AND did the assignments 🙂 That in itself is a big deal because independent study is something most people won’t do. So you all get big digs for that.

Unfortunately, this will be the end of the blog for now. Hopefully Vancouver locals can continue to use this page for information on gleaming the cities abundance of food, deciphering whether to buy local or organic, learning how to best raise backyard chickens or reading up on all things food related. If you would like to comment with questions I am still getting e-mails when they are made so don’t stop posting 🙂

One key success of the seminar is that UBC Farm is now on the map. This is the first time ever! It’s pretty cool because after a year plus of rallying to show the worth of the place it now sits in semi-permanence on the website. And we had something to do with the final push. One of our students read a UBC Student Media article and called Campus and Community Planning for clarification. A short time later, there it was, on the map. A wonderful community put in a massive effort to help keep the UBC Farm in full and we are glad to be a part of that community. We look forward to watching the Farm continue to grow long into the future on the soil it stands now.

Secondly, The event at Agro Cafe was sweet! It was a lot of effort putting together all the details for the night and I’m glad we all tried. It was a fun time, good food, good music and great people.

Lastly, I wanted to say that we put together some really cool projects and it was interesting to see you all take charge of a project and go with it. We put together 2 films, one podcast, 1 zine, maintained a blog and had a farm visit all in one semester. This class was nothing without you all, thanks for being a part of it. We learned that sovereignty is not something you fight for and win and then it’s complete until something physically changes. It is something that we must work for continually, relentlessly and time and time again. Complete sovereignty is nearly as possible as drawing a perfect circle. Yet, the pursuit of perfection is an exhilarating ride. I know that we all learned that we create our own world. The rest of our lives is a self-directed study. In order to succeed we must be strong independent workers capable of collaborating our efforts with other passionate people. And of course, we all learned to appreciate our food, at least, just a little bit more. It’s the source of our existence, a great gateway into environmental understanding, and if eaten locally each bite can be an act of solidarity to help take a bite out of inequity. A mouthful, I know. But basically, food is a powerful tool for community building. Disrespecting food is like angering your neighbor. Thank you seminar-neighbors for helping me discover that when plagued with the decision at the grocery store, local vs organic, it’s a usually a better bet to buy the local. Now let’s get out there and show people that how fun it can be to take action on your block.

In the words of Jake Cohn, let’s get vocal about eating local!

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#1 – Find a good location

Avoid Starbucks! It’s often easiest to suggest a centrally located corporate coffee shop but if there is any way you can interview in a place that has some relevance to the story or your subject you’ll have much greater success.

Not only because you’ll gain a further sense of context, people are often more comfortable (and open) when they’re in a familiar place or what feels like “their territory.”

#2 – Prepare Your Goals Ahead

Know what questions you’re going to ask and why you’re going to ask them. Do you want a colorful re-enactment of an event, an on-the-record opinion on the issue you’re covering, or general background?

Go into an interview with twice as many questions than you expect to ask. You want to strike a balance between a conversation (which helps make your subject feel comfortable and aids candor) and getting the job done. As your subject is answering your question, be thinking about what you’ll ask next and why.


#3 – Think about the medium

Interviewing techniques defiantly vary for different mediums. If you’re interviewing for audio or video you want to ask two part questions which encourages subjects to talk for longer blocks of time.

Conversely, when you’re interviewing for print, try and break questions up so you can get shorter and more concise answers (easier for taking notes and for quoting later). You can be more conversational with interviews for print, you can say “yeah,” and “uh-huh,” etc.

Not doing this is one of the biggest challenges when you’re interviewing for audio. Nodding and smiling accomplishes the same sort of conversational encouragement and keeps your tape clean.

Another great trick for audio interviews is to have your subject re-enact the story. It makes for good sound and helps you avoid having too much of your own narration later on.

#4 – Think about who you’re interviewing

To cover a story properly we need to hear all sides of the story. Direct quotes weigh more than ‘gisting’ from a website. If you absolutely cannot contact the other side of the story settle for second-hand information. Subjectivity comes from your use of the quotes. Be sure to hear the voice every stakeholder group on a topic.

#5 – Work them up

Another great question is “Why do you care about this story?” Play the devil’s advocate. “Do you think your work will actually change anything?” This can be an effective way to get a strong and emotional quote about why the topic you’re covering is so important.

You can also ask for the turning point in a story, the moment when everything changed or catalyzed. This can help you shape the narrative of your story as well.

#6 – Bring a buddy

I find having a second person as a note taker and extra set of ears can be very useful.

If you don’t think another person will overwhelm or distract your subject (I find that is pretty rare) it can be a lifesaver to have that second set of notes to check your quotes and information.

#7 – Endure awkward silences

I know this sounds counterintuitive. Ask your question, let them give you the rehearsed and generic answer, then sit there quietly and see what comes next. You’d be amazed how often this technique yields powerful results.

#8 – Ask for what you need

Be blunt, be direct. Don’t beat around the bush. If you’re looking for a particular quote on an aspect of the story, ask for it.

You can say, “Listen, I really need a quote from you encapsulating your feelings on this issue,” or “I really need you to walk me through the chronology of this,” or even, “I really need you to take me to a location that is relevant to this issue so I can set a scene.”

For the most part people want to be helpful and you just need to tell them how they can.

#9 – Be sneaky

Continue taking notes even after the interview is officially over. Sometimes people say the most revealing or intimate things when they feel that they’re out of the “hot seat.” If they don’t say “off the record,” it’s all game.

#10 – Empower them

A great question to ask if you don’t fully understand the perspective of your interviewee is “what is your ideal solution/resolution?” Obviously this only works in certain circumstances, but when appropriate it can help clarify a person’s point of view or opinion.

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