Take Control

By Cohen Price // Mosaic Staff Writer 

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Today was the day that we would meet Sean Webby, Public Information Officer for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and former Mercury News crime reporter, and learn “how to take control of an interview”. While I was initially excited and couldn’t wait for the meeting, I didn’t expect it to turn out like this. As soon as we arrived to the newsroom that morning, we had approximately thirty-minutes to work on our story before Webby arrived. I expected to sit in a room with Sean Webby and conversate with him for an hour and a half. I was wrong.

When Webby arrived, it felt as if the whole aura of the building shifted from a nice day at work to a surprising trip to hell. Things began to change and some things were changing too quickly. One minute we were supposed to have a meeting with Sean Webby, the next minute we were interviewing him about a man who was suspected of raping four women.

Crazy right? Thats what I was thinking the whole time. The instructions were brief on what to do, Interview officer Webby, write your paper within 25 minutes and turn your story into your editor at deadline. It was strange, throughout the whole event I wasn’t nervous, but I was so discombobulated that I was speechless most of the time. My questions didn’t flow like they used to, my brain was scattered all over the place, my hands kept shaking as I was writing quotes down; making my writing illegible–even for me.

The problem was, I didn’t know what was going on. We ran into a room to interview Sean Webby about an incident that was unheard of until the moment we stepped into the room. There was no time to come up with starter questions, no time to figure out an angle for our story. This was a side of journalism that I had never experienced before. As if that wasn’t enough Webby wasn’t exactly the nicest soul ever (or at least he didn’t start off that way). His answers wouldn’t be as specific as we wanted them to be, he would give off some rude remark at the end of his answer, “You should know better than to ask that”, and when the room would become silent for a brief moment he would he would the reporter’s concentration saying how he doesn’t have much time, and he need to go.

Well when this exercise was finally over, we had the chance to see who the real Webby was and received some great insight on “How to take control of an Interview”. Thanks to this brief experience, I’ve learned to “push back” and that when interviewing others, I should “find their currency” in order to make them feel comfortable to talk to me, by asking myself what would get me talking in their shoes.

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