HSI, Day 4: Ethics of Banning Books, Audio Gathering Tips, & Interview Day

Class Discussion: Ethics of Banning Books

Our initial discussion today deals with commonly banned/challenged books. First, let’s look at a list of books that are commonly banned. As you can see, the reasons often deal with foul language, racism, sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, and homosexuality.

The sides of the debate are typically either:

  • Pro-censorship: Protect children, protect integrity of character
  • Anti-censorship: Protect free speech

I want to know what you think. Let’s write a quick blog post about your thoughts. Here is the scenario. We’ll watch the clip together and then you’ll write a post that answers the questions below. There are no right or wrong answers; it’s just your thoughts and opinions.

The local public elementary school has banned the children’s book And Tango Makes Three. The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. The book follows the six years of their life where they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

  • Discuss why you think the book was banned.
  • Discuss both the pro-censorship and anti-censorship viewpoints.
  • Was the ban unwarranted?
  • Or, was the ban appropriate?
  • Do you have any personal experiences with your own school or parents banning books?

— My Thoughts —
Books should not be banned. Parents should decide what books are appropriate for their children, depending on the age and their worldview.

Quick Review: What Should I Do When I Interview Someone?

  1. Be prepared: Inform yourself about the topic, source, and/or interviewee. Do some background research on the story and educate yourself. Informed questions are the best questions.
  2. Practice your interview questions beforehand if you’re nervous or want to feel better-prepared going into the interview. It never hurts to practice. And practice being curious-sounding, professional, and calm rather than accusatory, aggressive, or a know-it-all.
  3. Make small talk before the interview. It relaxes you and the interviewee. And begin the interview with a softball question that you may not care too much about. This will relax the interviewee and yourself.
  4. Keep it conversational. Don’t ask one question after another with no casual feedback and discussion. You want to have a give-and-take, turn-taking conversation, rather than a firing-squad style conversation.
  5. Listen. Really listen to your interviewee talking as you take notes. Think about if you have any follow-up questions about their statements. If you don’t, then move on to the next prepared question.
  6. Prepare a basic outline of questions, but avoid reading them word-for-word. Again, you want to know your questions enough to ask them in a casual way to your interviewee. And you want to ask them when it’s appropriate to in the conversation.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions and the “do you have anything else to add before we finish” question. You want to understand the interviewee and the story well. You want to clarify things so you can clearly explain things to your audience.
  8. Allow silence. Silence is awkward. People fill silence with additional banter. It may be helpful banter for your story.
  9. Make eye contact, smile, and nod to show your interest. Try not to make the “uh huh” and “go on” noises. This is a bad habit and will ruin audio interviews if you engage in those behaviors.
  10. Any other suggestions from you and your classmates?

Audio Gathering Tips

Know Your Equipment: Be comfortable operating your audio recorder. You should know where the buttons are without looking at it. You should know what all of the buttons do. If you’re uncomfortable with the audio recorder, your subject will be as well.

Location: Find a quiet location with little background noise. Find a spot with soft surfaces that absorb sound. A couch or fabric chair is better than a wooden chair. Cover a table with a blanket. A car with closed windows is a great location. Avoid hallways and large rooms that echo.

No Ambient Noise During Interview: While you do want to use ambient noise in your audio story, you don’t want the ambient noise to interfere with the person speaking to you. Avoid consistent background noise by picking a small quiet room with carpet and soft chairs. If using the TASCAM, try using to foam covering to see if it helps quiet ambient noise. You want to collect ambient noise separately and not fight it during the interview.

Get Close: Put the microphone about 2 inches away from the person’s mouth if you’re recording at a moderate “rec level” (about 5-7 on the TASCAM). You can put the microphone farther away if you’re recording at a higher “rec level” (about 9-10).

Use Headphones: Put your headphones into the headphone jack on your digital audio recorder. Hit the “record” button. Now ask the person to talk. Ensure that you can hear the person clearly. If you can’t hear them clearly, put the microphone closer to their mouth and/or increase the “rec level” to a higher sensitivity. Keep the headphones on your ears during the whole interview. You’ll know exactly how the person sounds the whole time.

Speak Up: Ask the person to speak up and speak louder if you can’t hear them properly and clearly when you have your headphones on.

Don’t Fidget: Do not fidget and play with the audio recorder while gathering sound. The audio recorder picks up the noise when you rub your hands on it. Avoid this by not fidgeting.

Focus: There’s many things to think about while conducting an audio interview. Can you hear them clearly? What are they saying? What’s my next question? Where is the interview going? How can I take the interview in a different direction or somewhere I hadn’t planned if they say something interesting?

But Also Engage: Listen to the person. Make eye contact (don’t look at their mouth). Seem genuinely interested in their story. After they’re done speaking, stay in silence for a moment. They may add more detail to their thoughts. Empathize with them. Share information about yourself with them. This will help them ignore the microphone and their surroundings.

Uh huh: Don’t do it. Avoid saying those filler words during an interview. You don’t want YOUR voice recorded when the person is talking. Instead, nod, smile, use eye contact, and learn forward to encourage the person.

Interview Time Is Here!

Find a quiet place to conduct interviews. Remember to check for background noise because you’ll be recording these interviews with your audio recorder. Don’t be afraid to start over if you want to. You don’t need to get anything perfect the first time around. Stay close to our room and I’ll be walking around to the groups and checking up on everyone.

When you finish the interview, come back to the classroom so we can begin to brainstorm about the profile’s theme and organization.

About The Author

I'm a faculty member in Communication & Journalism at the University of Wyoming. At UW, I have taught online journalism, advanced new media, introduction to mass media, politics and media, and alternative media. At Ohio State, where I got my PhD, I taught research methods, news reporting and writing, visual communication, and persuasion. My reserach focuses on political communication, emerging media platforms, and entertainment media. In my spare time, I love to play with my daughters, hang out with my family, cook, hike, jog, read, and blog.

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