Interviewing in the Age of YouTube

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Dec. 19, 2012

Interviewing in the Age of YouTube

Trinity students learn how to produce multi-media profiles in an age of viral communication

Trinity senior Brianna Tammaro previewing a video project
Senior communication major Brianna Tammaro previews a video for a class on Interviewing in the Age
of YouTube

How has communication changed with the rise of viral videos and the advent of citizen journalism? William Christ, professor of communication at Trinity University, said that question had been on his mind for several years and he has used it as the basis for a new course he taught during the fall semester.

Titled Interviewing in the Age of YouTube, the class had a two-fold objective: to understand how technology has affected traditional media and to teach students the skills needed to produce multi-media stories.

When talking about the transformation in communication, Christ said one of the biggest upheavals has been making what was once personal into content anyone can see. "Everything we thought was private can now become public," said Christ.

This is happening because anyone can now be a reporter. Armed with a camera phone and a YouTube account, more and more people are taking part in participatory journalism - posting media content from events as diverse as political campaigns, natural disasters, and war zones for anyone to see.

To help Trinity students understand the new media landscape, Christ taught students  how to produce stories for audio, video, and print.  Class projects would combine any two elements to give the stories a multi-media dimension. For example, blog posts would supplement a video.

In addition, guest speakers visited the class to talk about different kinds of interviews and profile pieces for audio, and video, and print. The students also learned techniques for conducting good interview.

"It has to flow. It has to be a conversation," explained Brianna Tammaro, a senior from San Antonio with a major in communication and a minor in sports management. "You need to be prepared and know about your subject beforehand.  I think what is important is to get inside a person's head and to illustrate their world through the interview."

The first assignment was for students to do a self-portrait. "The motivation was, in 20 years, the students will come back and look at the projects together to see what their goals were, what they want to be, and what they thought about themselves," said Christ.

After the first project was completed and the students gained experience producing multi-media stories, the class moved on to creating longer projects on subjects they selected. The projects ranged from a profile on the owner of a guitar shop in San Antonio, a church camp in Austin, and two Trinity soccer players from Argentina.

Many of the projects will have a life outside of the class. Tammaro said her final project, a profile on the sports management minor, will be used as a promotional video. "I really wanted to give back to the minor," said Tammaro. "I just thought it would be a great way to highlight the program."

When asked what he ultimately learned from the class, Carlos Anchondo, a junior from Lockhart, Texas, who is double majoring in international studies and communication, said he developed "a greater understanding of the background work that goes into interviewing and the amount of preparation necessary for a well-balanced and productive interview."

For Tammaro, the course not only gave her preparation for her future career in communications, but also taught her about talking to people in general. "Not every conversation has to be an interview, but you can learn from each person you meet," she said.  

-Russell Guerrero '83