Before I could delve into the heart of the interviews, I had to get past the first question, “Can I interview you about health and recreation issues?” There was my first mistake. My approach was all wrong. By the third discussion, I realized the word, “interview,” carried a negative connotation for most people. Several individuals told me that they were not qualified for an interview. Some even suggested others who were more capable of answering my questions. I realized my initial approach needed to be modified, so instead I asked, “Can I ask you a couple of questions?” Immediately my interviews transformed from a forced situation to a casual conversation.
I initiated interviews for an hour on Friday afternoon in Rolland Moore Park in Fort Collins, Colo. During the first discussion with Tom Cruz, 55, Head Custodian at Blevins Middle School, he expressed his concern about the lack of recreation opportunities for young kids in his community. In addition to being a grandfather of two young boys, Cruz interacts with middle school-aged kids on a daily basis. In his conversations with these students, Cruz learns about their need to, “…let out the energy!” Cruz expressed a concern about the energy of these young students being misdirected into negative forms – crime, vandalism, drugs and alcohol.
Melinda Cruz, 53, is the wife of Tom and echoed her husband’s sentiments. Melinda told me that she thought the city of Fort Collins needed to do more to, “…provide young kids with healthy outlets for their energy.” Her biggest concern was not just that there are not enough healthy recreational opportunities, but that communication about opportunities that do exist is minimal and inadequate.
After my discussion with the Cruz’s, I walked down the bike path until I met Mikey Evans, 25, an Encapsulator at Empirical Labs in Fort Collins. Evans was very hesitant to talk with me and though I tried to make him feel at ease, the entire conversation felt forced. His answers were short. His anxiety was evident.
The next two interviews flowed more freely, perhaps because I refined my approach towards the end of the hour. As my comfort level increased, so did that of my interviewees. Their responses were comprehensive and my questions came more naturally. James Mackey, a 25-year-old Academic Tutor, informed me that he worries about the mental health of his students, including the issue of teen depression. Reece Dukes, 30, a recycle truck driver for Gallegos Sanitation, expressed a desire to learn more about public land-use policies as they relate to his favorite hobby of 4-wheeling.
Of the five interviews, the most insightful information garnered was in response to the lack of healthy recreation opportunities for local kids — an issue I intend to revisit this semester.
In the end, I learned that the job of an interviewer is more than just facilitating questions. As interviewers, we must play the role of host. Our interviewees are guests in our house and we must make them feel at ease. So brew a pot of coffee, take a seat on the couch and invite your interviewees in to join you for those meaningful and ever-important conversations.