Asking Hard Questions is Hard

What actually happens in an interrogation room? Mind games, intimidation and some straight up trickery according to the fourth chapter of Homicide. Simon goes into detail about the different tactics that the detectives use to get a witness to open up, or a criminal to confess.

Simon does a good job of describing what it’s like on the wrong side of the table. Leave the bullshit at the door because the cops can see right through it and better yet, don’t say anything at all, you’re probably going to convict yourself. It sounds like a claustrophobic experience.

Pop quiz: You’ve just killed two people and there’s no physical evidence or witness that can link you directly to either crime. Do you: (A) Shut your mouth or (B) Visit the homicide unit and lie your ass off?

“The only answer,” mused Garvey as he typed the warrant for Vincent Booker’s house, “is that crime makes you stupid” (222).

There are many times when you can be your own worst enemy, and an interrogation is certainly one of those times. If the cops don’t have any leads on a cold case you’re a warm body that can give them new information, whether you realize it or not.

This whole power dynamic is really interesting to me because I do a lot of interviewing, and even though I’m the one asking the questions I never really feel like I’m in control of the conversation. No matter how many questions you prepare you never know how someone is going to answer them. When an interview goes off the rails it can be wonderful and enlightening, or it can be horrible and awkward.

I’ve had many cringe-worthy experiences and I’ve realized that there is, in fact, such a thing as a stupid question, but hey, I’ve also learned a hell of a lot. Yet, I don’t have the power of the interrogation room on my side and I still feel like my credentials are lacking in some situations.

Asking tough or emotional questions is hard, and it’s something that takes a lot of tact to get a great answer without offending or hurting somebody.

I love talking to people and it’s really satisfying getting someone to open up about their story. I think that’s something a lot of journalists have in common.

After the interview, writing the story can sometimes be the hardest part. You sit down with someone for a finite amount of time then translate that conversation into a larger story. Listening back to the interview is an interesting exercise because you hear things you didn’t when you were asking all the questions. Sometimes it’s not until after the interview that you realize what you should have been asking all along.

Besides kicking yourself for missed opportunities confidence, genuine curiosity and a little bit of empathy can be the most helpful tools during an interview.

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