Discover more from Starting Out
Spend last days of summer with Mitra Kaboli
And read to the end for a little love letter 💌
Lately I’ve been trying to make a habit of reaching out to people when I love their work. Not because I want a job from them or their co-sign on a new project or anything else. Just to say, this was great, it meant something to me.
I realize that there’s so many times where I privately adore a particular piece of writing or sound design choice, when I could just reach out to that person and say, “Hey, I loved that.”
This goes for friendships too. I was talking to my friend Jules recently about wanting to express love for my friends on a more regular basis, no big occasion necessary. Just, “I’m so glad we met, you’re the best.”
She said that whenever she gets a text like that from a friend, it somehow comes at the perfect time. A message like, “I’m really proud of you” when she’s feeling particularly self-critical. It works that way for me, too. And I think that when you send that energy into the world, with no expectations attached, it has a way of coming back to you.
Anyway, with that in mind, I’m adding a new little feature at the end of the newsletter to highlight things that I love. Read to the end and tell me what you think!
But first, read this interview with Welcome to Provincetown’s Mitra Kaboli. I love this show, it’s intimate, funny, weird, and doesn’t shy away from the contradictions of its subject. It’s the perfect listen for the last hot days of the year. Mitra and I also talked about making a career as a freelancer, workplace red flags and why you should listen to your tape.
Alice: You tweeted something like: "I want a panel at a conference where you talk about the red flags for a job." Can you say more about that?
Mitra: There are so many weird, shady companies who don't know what they're doing, want a podcast, and don't even know what that means. I had so many near misses in my career that at the time were devastating because I needed work so bad. But then, I think that was a blessing because there were a lot of red flags.
Alice: Can you give me some examples?
Mitra: Honestly, when I see a new production company pop up, where none of the people who work there have any sort of radio experience, that's a red flag. Frankly, anything with celebrity is a red flag for me personally because I don't want to manage a celebrity, and celebrities famously won't give you a lot of time. They get paid bazonkas money for an hour of their time, and that's all you get with them. So when I look at the types of shows that they have –– like if they're wanting something doc style, which is what I work on mostly, and all they have are chat shows, that's weird.
How to Write A Prep (Part Two)
Welcome back! Last month I published the first half of a guide to writing an interview prep, so if you missed that, I recommend checking it out.
Now that you’ve written all the questions you can possibly think of, it’s time to start narrowing them down.
Questions I’d cut:
Any, “yes or no” or other closed ended questions:
Yes or no questions are self explanatory (“Were you fired?”) but it’s possible to write a close- ended question that is not a yes or no question.
“Did you feel sad after you lost your job?” There’s a chance they could elaborate with a beautiful answer, but it’s more likely they’ll say, “Yeah, I was really sad,” which doesn’t feel very evocative.
Overly broad questions:
If you are looking for a broad answer, it’s fine to ask broad questions! But if you want to build a scene or learn something specific about someone, specificity is your friend.
“How did you feel after you lost your job?” is a broad question. The person answering could talk about their immediate reaction, or how they felt later that night, or how they feel about it a year later.
“After your boss said you were fired, what kinds of thoughts were running through your head?” is specific. “When did the news of your job loss really sink in?” is specific. These questions place us in a particular time frame.
Questions that contain the answer in them:
This is my number one pet peeve as a producer! When you give the guest their answer as you ask the question it leaves little for them to do but say, “Yep!” It may prove to your guest that you did your research, but it doesn’t do much for the audience.
Here’s an example:
“The Coffee Shop Union released a statement saying that you wanted your coworker who was fired to be reinstated immediately. Why did you publish that?”
There’s a good chance that the answer is in the question, they wanted their co-worker to be reinstated.
You could instead ask: “Your union published a statement after your coworker was fired, what were the main points of that statement?”
This way they’re putting the statement in their own words. You could even ask them to read the statement aloud and then prompt them to explain more about the process of writing it.
I know it’s tempting to show the interviewee that you did your homework (you read their statement, you did your research!) but it doesn’t serve the audience or the interview. If you’re worried about coming off as not knowledgeable on the subject matter, you can always tell your interviewee before the start of the interview, “I’m going to be asking you some questions about your work that may seem basic or indicate that I haven’t done my research, but I have. But I also need to be a surrogate for a listener who might know nothing about this.”
The questions I put in every prep:
After I’ve written and narrowed down my questions, I add in my default questions. These are the ones that I use, but everyone does this differently, so no stress if they don’t work for you.
My “default” questions/statements:
This interview isn’t live, so if you are talking about something and realize you want to rephrase, clarify, or start the sentence over again, go for it.
This is to set the person at ease. It may seem obvious to you that the interview isn’t live, but most people don’t do interviews on a regular basis and don’t know that!
Depending on the interview, I’ll let people know that if they don’t want to talk about a particular topic or answer a question they can let me know and we’ll move on.
I do not add this into interviews with people in positions in powerful institutions. Those people are media trained, and will not answer questions perfectly well without my help. If they’re uncomfortable because I asked them a difficult question, that’s okay with me.
I do say it when I’m interviewing a regular person, who is speaking about events in their own life that are sensitive.
An important note with this question overall is that if you make a promise like this, you have to keep it or you’re going to lose the trust of your interviewee.
At the end of the interview I ask if there’s anything we didn’t discuss that they think I should know.
I also let them know what the next steps in the process will be, from sending their audio recording to the fact checking process.
One last quality check before you send off your prep to your editor and colleagues.
If you have time, I recommend making a rough outline of the story as you imagine it will play out. Obviously you don’t know all the details yet (that’s what the interview is for) but between your research and your pre-interviews, you should have an idea of the general contours.
Once you have that outline, look at it alongside your prep and make sure that for every big scene you’re hoping to create there’s a question in the prep that will get you the tape you need. That way you don’t end up in the writing stage thinking, “I wish I had some tape to fill out this scene!”
That’s all I have for now — what’s your best advice for writing a prep?
Digital Content Intern, (Part-time) Kansas City PBS ($15/hr)
Audio Producer Intern, The Washington Post, ($750/week)
Minow Fellowship in Journalism Excellence, WTTW ($18/hr)
Fall Internship, Audacy Boston (No pay information included)
Reflect Alabama Fellowship, WBHM ($15/hr)
Pulliam Journalism Fellowship, IndyStar ($650/week)
Associate Producer, NBA Radio (part-time) ($18/hr)
Assistant News Producer, KPBS ($16.30/hr)
Associate Producer, KFTK St. Louis, Audacy (No pay information included)
Assistant Producer, Audacy Chicago (part-time) (No pay information included)
News Production Assistant, (Part-time), KYW, Audacy, (No pay information included)
KNX Part-Time News Production Assistant, KNX, Audacy ($16.78/hr)
Part-time Production Assistant, ESPN (No pay information included)
If you are hiring interns, fellows or other entry level positions, send your job postings and rates to startingout [at] transom [dot] org and I’ll list them in the next issue. Please note that Starting Out features only paid opportunities.
💗 P.S. I love 💗
Phoebe Wang’s sound design on The Retrievals goes crazy / This woman is a genius / “Ayo and Rachel Are Single” is criminally underrated (the police are on their way!) / Worker owned media is just better / Finally some good podcast merch.
Next month: NPR’s Claire Murishima on surviving the night shift at Morning Edition.