Transcription of interview with Paul Voakes

Me: Um… I guess my, uh, focus, is basically, um, as I understand you were the Dean…

PV: Yes.

Me: … of the Journalism school?

PV: Yeah.  It’s called the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Me: Okay.  And… how’s the transition been like to… the new school?

PV: To the new college?

Me: Yeah.
PV: Yeah. Um, it’s been remarkably smooth, because, because, uh, actually, it was five years ago that the administration announced that it wanted to shut down the School in order to make way for something new and different and more, um, um, more cognizant of a very different media landscape, that, um, ought to embrace far more than just journalism.  And, so, that was, sort of, sad and shocking news to a lot of people, because what people heard, you know, in the headline was, “Journalism school shutting down.”  And, that’s, not really a great way to sort of embrace a bright new future.  And so we had to work pretty hard to make sure that people understood that it wasn’t, it wasn’t the end of anything, it was transition into something new.  And so, um, probably the biggest public misperception in those first two years was the misperception that something had stopped at CU Boulder, because the reality is that we didn’t lose a single faculty member, and that our enrollment stayed steady, and our curriculum continued to offer all of the courses that we were offering for years and years and years… so in other words, it was just business as usual on the ground, in the classroom, um from week to week from semester to semester, it was business as usual and moving, also moving forward, and, and so, rather than shut down we were changed from a school to a “program” called the JMC program.  And we had a, sort of a temporary leader who was called interim director, and uh, so, things kept rolling along while various faculty committees brainstormed and brainstormed and brainstormed several iterations of what the new college would look like, what would it be composed of, what would be the name of it, you know all those things were being envisioned and managed by various faculty, I’d say maybe, somewhere along the total of 9 different committees, maybe 80 or 90 different people worked on it, so it was really, an amazing document that eventually emerged, um, where it was basically settled on that there would be seven (audio distorted due to paper shuffling – parts?) and that the old JMC program would (illegible again due to paper shuffling) with 3 of these 7 departments, and Comm(?) would come from Arts & Sciences, and that would be the fourth sort of existing department, and then there would be three that would be brand new, and the most exciting one for me, they’re all really exciting, but what’s really exciting for me is information science, because that simply did not exist previously to Boulder – information sciences, kind of a hybrid computer-science and, um, the sort of, human social aspects of computing. And, and, information management.  So, um, it’s really cool to have information sciences in the mix in the new college.  So basically that’s the history of it over the past four and a half years, um, so… it’s… and, again, so many people over the last four years have asked me, people from around the country have asked me – what am I doing, what am I doing now that I’m not a professor of journalism at CU, where did I land, and I just have to keep saying, “No, actually, nothing changed, we just went into a new college, uh, a new college with a new mission and a new outlook.

Me: Okay. And as far as the transition to the new college, what do you think will be different, what do you think will be, um, (pause), something even, what do you think is emerging from this that you think would be promising in the new direction this college…”

PV: Um, what I think would be emerging, is that we’ll have opportunities to collaborate with folks that we, um, normally never would have um, as a school of journalism.  Cuz as a school we were over there in the Armory and were quite isolated from the rest of the campus, of the the schools, colleges, and the ability for example, to do a research collaboration with a computer scientist was simply out of the question, and now it is very very much a probability that we would be able to do things.  Um the ability to collaborate with this professor here… (continued)


The first and most significant issue that jumps out at me about my interview technique is that I don’t interrupt the subject when it’s apparent that he’s going outside the scope of the question, or filling in with details that I haven’t yet asked and need to place in context, or when the answer is just running way too long.  That is actually why I had to go over the allotted 5 minutes, as I was not able to ask a second question until well after that. Even then I had to cut off his second answer to avoid going too overboard.  A good interviewer should know when to keep the subject on track and be able to frame the answers within a specific context; otherwise the meaning of the answers gets lost and when having to put it into print, the story loses a focus.  I definitely need to work on questions and sub-questions to ask while a subject is answering, and to interrupt if necessary (politely of course and at a natural break).  I need to make an interview more conversational so I am engaged with the subject and eliciting answers that are more on point.  Avoid open-ended, overly broad questions that invite an overly broad answer.

As far as style issues, I do say ‘um’ a lot when buying time.  Definitely need to work on that to avoid the impression I came up unprepared and don’t know what I’m trying to ask.  If the question doesn’t sound right when I say it, I need to just stop, let the subject know I have to collect my thoughts, maybe even shut off the recorder while I think, and then restart when I have a clear idea of what it is I’m trying to elicit.  This also goes into my issues with not knowing how to ask a question without having to keep ‘adding on’ context in order to let the subject frame their answer better.  Bottom line – need to prep questions better and anticipate how a subject will respond.

The part where I address the new college as “School” is a factual mistake I make, as it’s obviously no longer a “School” and that was the entire point of opening the new college.  The School shut down.  Must avoid making mistakes like that, otherwise might run into situations where the subject thinks I didn’t do any research or even may get offended by my lack of consideration.

There were a couple of instances where the audio was illegible because I was shuffling papers.  Need to be mindful that noises like that can ruin the audio.  If I need to do something like that I should either do it farther from the mic, or if need be ask the subject to pause while I get everything set and then continue when the disruption has passed.  Better yet, don’t shuffle papers and have everything I need in front of me before the interview starts.

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