Today’s Tricks of the Trade is with Metro Weekly‘s White House Correspondent Chris Geidner. Credentials: He’s the senior political writer at Washington’s LGBT magazine, where, apart from the White House, he covers Congress and the Courts. He has contributed to The Atlantic Online, Advocate.com, Salon, and HuffPost. He’s also a lawyer — he graduated from Ohio State University Law School in 2005, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Ohio State Law Journal. He worked in the Ohio AG’s office and for a local law firm. While in law school, he blogged for Law Dork, which received a variety of accolades.
1. Favorite Interview Technique Find a topic that the person clearly cares about but isn’t asked to talk about often. Ask them about it. There’s a reason they care about it, so it could go to an interesting place. Even if it doesn’t get used, it creates a rapport with the subject and lets the person know you’re familiar with their work.
2. Most Compelling Question You’ve Ever Asked When talking with playwright Moises Kaufman about The Laramie Project, I brought in my experience being a young gay man in the Midwest when Matthew Shepard was killed and it drew more out of Kaufman about his own thoughts regarding why Shepard’s death had such a huge impact, including a line that struck me: “A Latino drag queen who is killed – goes home with someone, is tied to the bed and murdered – is not a worthy victim in our culture the way Matthew Shepard was.”
3. Best Self-Editing Approach I step away. Eat dinner. Read fluff. Watch TV. Come back with a clear head.
4. What to do When an Interview is Tanking Grasp at straws. Take it in a different direction, quickly, and try to change the tone completely. If there are no straws, let it go. It’s an interview, not your life.
5. Approaching Lawmakers and other “Important People” Be understanding of the difficulty of their job and respectful, but be no more deferential than you would be to anyone else. When you approach officials with respect but no additional deference, which can be a tough line to draw, it just changes the spirit of the moment.
6. Most Surprising Thing to Happen During an Interview…
Most Surprising…Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) half-shouting “it’s not the policy” at me and The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld more than 10 times after she asked him about instances of the military searching servicemembers’ private email in violation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I specified that – despite McCain’s belief – it had happened to former Air Force Major Mike Almy.
7. Advice From An Editor You’ve Never Forgotten “What the hell are you saying?” It’s much simpler if it’s much simpler. Sometimes that will make a story longer – and other times it will make it shorter.
8. Piece of Advice for Budding Journalists Write. Write often. Don’t stop writing, and take criticism – both public and private – in stride. (NOTE TO SELF: Listen to self.)