Imagine the opportunity to interview representatives from the White House where you were allowed to ask questions about topics that mattered to you, your family and your community. What would you ask? How would you approach the conversation?
Now picture a small classroom of students facing a large computer monitor. On the monitor, looking back at students, are Jamieson Greer, Chief of Staff to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and Emily K. Davis, Deputy Assistant USTR for Public & Media Affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President.
Mr. Greer and Ms. Davis agreed to be interviewed by Kirby’s Multimedia Journalism class, a group of mostly 12th grade students all of whom are interested in politics, communications and what their futures–and the future of the United States–hold.
Filtered light is streaming in between the drawn shades from a window. Kirby students have collaborated on a list of questions and coordinated in advance who would ask which one. The room before the call is noisy, full of movement and boisterous laughter–masking anticipatory jitters. Yet a calmness immediately takes over the room when the interview begins. Students are poised and attentive–the room becomes hushed and serious.
Introductions are shared and after a brief interlude of adjusting the volume on the computer, questions begin. These are asked thoughtfully and respectfully. Thirty minutes of conversation ensue and every topic prepared in advance was covered–demonstrating a laudatory sense of timing and preparation.
This was a monumental moment for Kirby students. Some of their reflections are below:
“This interview was definitely the highlight of my two years of journalism, especially when I found out the call was going to be directly from the White House. Seeing the White House in the daily news doesn’t come close to getting a call from the White House! I thought the interview would be scary. I was worried our questions might be considered controversial. However, the interview itself felt relaxed and it was a great experience to learn from. The biggest thing I learned from this interview is to not be afraid to ask questions; ask until they tell you no.”
– Yanglongshuang “Lily” Zhou
“The experience was cool; it was actual journalism! The process was stringent and it was interesting to observe how they responded to our questions.”
– Ben Tarr
“I thought the interview would have been much more intense then it actually was. It felt very laid back. I learned a lot about contacts and getting information as a journalist.”
– Dylan Becker
Although the content of the interview is off the record, students came away feeling appreciatively informed and excited to have conducted their first of hopefully many high-profile interviews.