The differences between "oral history interview" and "news interview"

From the Purpose and Content to Questioning Method

Compiled: Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


Oral history website - those who are planning to enter the oral history space - should be aware that there is a difference between an oral history interview and a news interview. A linear interview such as a news interview should not be taken as a verbal interview. Achieving this skill also requires increasing knowledge, repetition and practice. In the next note, we will discuss the differences between a news interview and an oral history interview. I emphasize that this is a reporter's note and does not have a scientific or research aspect.




In general, news interview and oral history interview have several differences:

1. Purpose and Content: The main purpose of a news interview is to obtain new and documented information about current events and happenings. In a news interview, most of the questions are related to breaking news and current events. On the other hand, the main purpose of the oral history interview is to record the narrator's memories, observations and experiences and evidence from a historical perspective. In this type of interview, questions are usually asked about the narrator's past, historical events, and personal experiences. For example, when reporters interviewed officials at the time of the Plasco [the name of building in Iran] incident, they were in charge of updating information such as the condition of the injured and the end time of fire extinguishing, but an oral history interviewer, when several years have passed since the Plasco incident, interviewed the managers of that time. will deal with the causes and roots of this incident and its effects on the society of Tehran and Plasco union activists, as well as observe the untold details from the firemen's words.

2. Timing and Time Limit: As mentioned, the news interview is usually done close to the event. Due to the urgency of the news, the interviewer may have a time limit and design questions based on the priority and importance of the news, but in the oral history interview, there is less time limit and the interviews are conducted to record accurate and comprehensive evidence from the narrators. For example, if a few days pass from an event and it loses its novelty, there is no more attraction for news discussion. But for an oral history interviewer, there is no time limit, and there is the capacity to talk as long as the narrators are alive.

3.  Questioning Style: In a news interview, direct questions related to events are usually asked, and the reporter's goal is to answer the general questions of the audience. In an oral history interview, questions are usually designed to elicit historical and personal notes and may be more open-ended. The questioning style in an oral history interview focuses on the narrator's memories, experiences, and personal perspective.

4. Using of Sources: Journalists use a variety of sources such as official documents, books, news agency archives, and internet sources to collect information. In the oral history interview, in some cases, historical sources and documents can be used as references. But the main source of information is the narrator's memories and personal experiences, and in fact, the narrator's statements are a kind of document. For example, to start a conversation with a narrator, the speaker refers to various documents related to the narrator. But maybe in the middle of the way, based on the narrator's statements or the documents available with the narrator, such as photos, audio or video, and manuscripts, he will make changes in the question package.

5. How to Use Interviews: News interviews are published in written and internet media and are transmitted to the audience through articles, newsletters, and television and radio programs. But it can be said that sometimes news interviews have an expiration date and only the study of some of them that have a historical background is useful for researchers. Oral history interviews are also usually archived in the form of books, articles and historical documents. With the difference that oral history interviews do not have an expiration date. From this point of view, oral interviews are more permanent.

These differences show that news interview and oral history interview are different from each other in terms of purpose, content, timing, even recording method and question package. However, in both types of interviews, prior study, careful preparation, and effective communication with narrators and interviewees are vital.

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