In the 5th week of my internship in Zimbabwe I started conducting the interviews I had planned for my data-collection. I deliberately waited some time to start doing them, as I thought the subject was sensitive. In addition, I would be conducting them at NewsDay – and I did not want to disturb people who were doing their work. Since the first week of my internship I had been weighing and selecting people of who I thought would give interesting answers. I also made sure I had different subjects from different parts of Zimbabwean society; different age groups, different occupations, different social status’ and different ethnic groups (Shona, Ndebele, caucasian).
I found it quite hard to ask people to participate as I was scared they would decline. Fortunately, everybody wanted to be interviewed. I learned that it is best to not beat around the bush; just ask somebody to participate – if they say no, it changes nothing in the (working of personal) relationship you have with this person. In the case of Zimbabwe, I observed that once I had explained what my research was about, namely Zimbabwean politics, political participation and social media, everybody was eager to share their view. Zimbabweans live and breathe politics, everybody wants their voice heard. Doing the interviews, I noticed my participants appreciated the questions being asked and I saw they were satisfied with the opportunity to talk about the current Zimbabwean political situation.
The three interviews I have conducted so far have each been very different. The first was with a fellow (Zimbabwean) intern. Her answers were educated and underbuilt. Expect for the fact that I had chosen a room I was not allowed to sit in (we had to move halfway the interview), the process went great. I had previously made a consent-form which I would read out before the interview started. After the first interview, I decided to keep the form but alter a few questions. I chose to record on my laptop, something that went well also. The second interview was with an older member of my team. He was nervous for some reason, and wanted to read the questions beforehand. I did not really want that to happen as I was afraid it would influence the nature (and spontaneity) of his answers, but I was also afraid that if I said ‘no’ he would not want to do the interview anymore. I let him read the questions, but marked this in my notes under the interview – so I could remember the data from this particular interview might or must be seen differently than the other interviews, of which those participants did not get to read the questions beforehand. The third interview was with the chief-editor of NewsDay. The beginning of the interview was a bit of a struggle; an important and busy man, he was an hour late for our appointment. He started off by saying that he would keep answering his phone and use his laptop during the course of the interview. I thought it would be a disaster but it went very well eventually. His answers and his position where very interesting and I noticed he found my questions intriguing also; he put down his phone and took the time to give his answers. I was happy I had kept the interview going.
All in all, the whole trajectory was a huge learning process but it went well and I’ll stick to the method I chose.