My Forum Interview
Last week, I had an interview that was supposed to last 15-20 minutes. Instead, it lasted almost 45. I was interviewed by Irene Noguchi, one of the producers on KQED’s Forum.
Perhaps it was a result of her time conducting interviews both on and off air, but she asked me some of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. Not only that, but she saw things in me through my resume that I hadn’t even put together about myself.
Preceding the interview, she asked me to put together three pitches for three story ideas for Forum, which was both more fun and more challenging than I expected it to be. But she said they were very thorough and impressively detailed, so that’s good. One of my pitches was about the robots and science in the search for lost planes, specifically the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 still missing somewhere in the Indian Ocean, one was about the company Pley, renting toys, and the importance of playing with new toys for children’s’ development, and the third was about the sad lack of international authors translated into English.
As we were talking, Ms. Noguchi asked me why I had traveled to Prague, and what I was getting out of my experience. It was a question I was expecting; in fact, in my internship course just last week, we had mock interviews, and every single person got asked this question. When I answered it in class, I talked about my personal connection to Prague, the fact that my dad spent hours, days, weeks, with Babi translating documents from Czech after Deda died, and my worry that no-one in my family will be able to do that when the inevitable happens and Babi passes on too. In class, my teacher and classmates suggest I not talk about it. Use the question to express your interest in seeing the world, in learning about a new culture; answer every question honestly, but spin every answer to market some aspect of yourself. When Ms. Noguchi asked me that same question, I ignored all the advice, and answered it the same way I’d answered it in class. Instead of being put off by such a personal answer, she nonchalantly said, “So you’re the family historian.”
I’d never thought of it that way. I don’t think I have that much interest in family history, really. We have a family tree of Babi’s side framed in her house, and I know I’ve always been fascinated by it. I love hearing the stories of the past and of all our relatives, but I can never remember them. Isn’t remembering an innate part of being a historian? So I didn’t really think of myself as a family historian, but since that interview, I think it might be an accurate description. I mean, look at this blog. As much of what I’ve written about Prague has been about my search for my family’s history as it has been about anything else. Maybe it is a role I’m stepping into, one step, one story, at a time?
Regardless, the next thing Ms. Noguchi said hit me as telling: “That’s good. Everyone in radio, I think, is attracted to the story, whatever it is.” And we moved on.
A bit later, she said something else that I maybe could have predicted, but also hadn’t really put together. She asked another question, phrased as if it was something obvious. “I see a robots theme here on your resume. Research at Tufts, the Girl Scouts Robotics team.” She interrupted herself. “I didn’t even know the Girl Scouts had a robotics team. And then one of your pitches was about robots. Tell me about this theme.”
My answer to this question isn’t really all that relevant, but I did find it interesting. I don’t think I’m as into robots as I used to be; I’m not on robotics teams anymore, at least. But I still find them fascinating. I read pretty much every article about robots I come across, and I write about them too! Maybe I’m more into robots than I thought, and it just took a single, well-thought out question to show me that.
I hope that, among all the things I get to do this summer, I can learn to ask the type of questions Ms. Noguchi asked me. I hope that I can learn from her, from the other Forum producer Judy Campbell, editor Dan Zoll, and of course host Michael Krasny, to ask the right questions to get the interesting answers.
Because about two days after our interview, I got the email everyone wants when they’re applying for a job. Starting in less than 4 weeks, I’ll be working on KQED’s Forum as an intern, helping to pick and research show topics and guests, to screen callers, and to put the ten hours of fascinating content I’ve listened to for as long as I remember on air.
I’m super excited for this opportunity, and I want to take a second to thank Emily Sena and her friend Erika Kelly for helping me even get an interview. I know from experience that getting the interview is the hard part, so I’m eternally grateful to these two. (Get networking, kids! It is totally worth it!)
I know that the very first thing I’m going to do when I meet Michael Krasny is ask him two questions: How many books do you read a week? How? Because it is clear from his interviews with authors that he reads every book he talks about on air, and obviously dozens on top of that. So I want to learn his secret…
I think it is safe to say that the reality of the awesomeness of this hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m going to working on a nationally aired news program on NPR. Based on things I’ve read (including this blog by a Stanford student who interned on Forum, and this interview of Forum editor Dan Zoll) I know that this is going to be an amazing internship, where I will get real responsibilities from Day 1, get to meet amazing people from all walks of life, and hopefully find a career I love (either radio, or something else that one of the hundreds of guests I’ll interact with does…). Regardless, I’m very excited for what this summer holds in store for me, and I’ll make sure to keep everyone updated as the summer progresses!
And if you’ve got any questions you want me to pose to anyone on the Forum staff, or others who work for KQED, sound off below and I’ll see what I can do!