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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds So I want to start– so you were talking with your subjects on a very personal and sensitive topic, you know, their family history of prostitution and sexual abuse. And so first of all, a question that doesn’t really have to do with interviewing, but the question that I first had when I read the stories, how did you find these people? Yeah, that was a special story. I was having coffee with a friend of mine who I met actually when I interviewed her many years ago, because she was doing– I think she’d started her own nonprofit for dating violence. And I thought she was so bright. And so I stayed in touch with her. And we were having coffee.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds And she’s moved on to other things. And this was something that this woman, a younger woman, had come to her as a potential client. She said wow, that’s a really interesting story. Have you ever told it to anybody? And she said no. And she was telling me the story when we were having coffee. And I said, oh my goodness. That’s an amazing story. I mean, do you think she would, you know talk to Glamour, a national magazine, and– International. Yeah, so there you recognize it. And so she said she would approach her. They were very shy and cautious, the younger woman was very shy and cautious. And her family, as you know, is involved with this.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds And so I met them. It was a very long process. And that’s one thing that in this kind of situation as somebody, I’m sitting there like chomping at the bit thinking to myself, this is a great story. I’ve got to get it, you know. This is going to be an amazing. But you have to kind of put yourself in another place. Because you really, I think the worst thing to do is to make someone feel pressured when they have a really deeply personal story to tell. Because it needs to be a right time for that.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds And I think if they feel like hounded by the media or like that somebody’s hungry for their story, that just sets it up in a really bad way. So I actually met the daughter and her husband in New York. They were in New York for something. And I just met them. I had a conversation, no tape recorder, no notes. I just sat and talked. And they left feeling kind of comfortable and said, OK. I mean, she was worried about her mother talking to me. And that was the harder interview. The grandmother, because she had the really sad story and the– Yeah, she [INTERPOSING VOICES]. Harrowing experiences. Just so basically that’s how I got it.

Skip to 3 minutes and 1 second It was one of those ‘you’re having coffee with a friend’. And they mention somebody that they met. And you’re like oh, my god. Yes, absolutely. Those are the best. [LAUGHTER] That’s how stories fall into your lap sometimes absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. You started answering my second question actually of how did you get them to agree to talk to you? Yeah. That’s a big battle there. Yeah. And I met them first, I’m remembering. And then I said well, why don’t we just have a phone call, you know. They were in New York. They were kind of you know, when in Times Square it’s not the most comfortable place, so it was like well, maybe. And they seemed nice.

Skip to 3 minutes and 42 seconds And we laughed, at you know. We took pictures and stuff, just kind of made it very light. And then so I said why don’t we have a phone call when you’re back home. And we can go through some of the stuff that you’re thinking about and what you have. And we did that. Then they agreed, by then they agreed to do it. And I said, would you agree to have me come out there. And I got them to sign to an exclusivity agreement so they would just tell their story to us first. So that was the agreement. And then I flew to Calgary where they are.

Skip to 4 minutes and 23 seconds And I guess they had sort of assumed that their mum would talk if she could, you know. They brought her along. But it was– the daughter told me that she was very nervous of fancy people. Mhm. The daughter was nervous, or the mother? The mother. Yeah. [LAUGHTER] So you are fancy people. She thought I would be a fancy person. And she was quite nervous about it. [LAUGHTER] But we hear a lot from Lori, the grandmother, and her story with being forced into prostitution at age 11 from her mother and some very clear details about her first night on the street basically, and how she made those first $20.

Skip to 5 minutes and 9 seconds And so my question is, how did you get her to share that with you? What questions did you ask her to open up and to get to that story? So I was there for a couple of days, maybe like two or three days. I think one of the things with something like this with the trauma, this is something I’ve learned. Because I’ve done a number of stories that are really sensitive. And if you go right there, you know, it’s almost like an open wound that closes up on you. You know like, they– and there’s two things about that. So you really need to kind of like go slowly to that part.

Skip to 5 minutes and 54 seconds And the other thing is depending on how much they’ve talked about it or processed it, you know, they may not be able to talk about it. They may be searching for the truth themselves. And sometimes it comes out differently. Like if you were to talk to somebody 10 times about the same - a rape, for example, or this first night on the street. Like it might change over time. Because they’re kind of like - they haven’t talked about it. And she hadn’t.

Skip to 6 minutes and 29 seconds She is re-integrating it and trying to make sense of it.

Skip to 6 minutes and 35 seconds So the first day, I certainly didn’t say anything. And one thing I did which she told me, this is good that you’re using this example. Because she actually told me this, which was helpful. So we’re sitting there. You know, she was a heroin junkie too. And She had all kinds of abuse problems. And I think it seemed something like she was more easily able to discuss. So we got into that topic first. So I said, oh my god. I can’t believe you - I really was trying to draw her out. I was like, oh my god. I can’t believe you did heroin. I never got that far. I only did, you know. I stopped before heroin.

Skip to 7 minutes and 17 seconds She goes, you did drugs? And I said, oh yeah. You know, and she said, well what drugs did you do? I went OK, like I was sitting there. So I know it’s not necessarily - it may not be as sort of kosher or journalistic technique. But for her, she said, she told me when I - later she said, you know, when you told me you did drugs, that was it. That’s what I thought I could talk to this person, you know. You established rapport with her at that point. Yeah, and the other thing is, I had grown up. I had spent my 20s in blocks from, well, in the same area where she was, had been prostituted.

Skip to 7 minutes and 58 seconds So I knew every block. So I was like, OK. So was it here? Was it that store? Was it this bar? You know, how many, so god, that was a long walk you took. Because that would’ve been, you know, from Lincoln to - so I knew her world. When I could say that I knew her world a little bit, you know, it made her feel more comfortable.

Interviewing 'ordinary' people - part two

Please listen to the first part of Dr Eckler’s interview with Liz Brody, Editor-at-Large at Glamour magazine.

Here, Brody talks about how she interviewed her subjects and how she got them to open up about sensitive topics.

Think which of her techniques or advice would help if you interview people on sensitive topics in the future and post your thoughts in the comments area.

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Introduction to Journalism

University of Strathclyde