Being interviewed by Aloted

December 7, 2011

I have a good friend, Victoria Oruwari, who is visually impaired. She is very unhappy about an interview that was posted in a Lagos newspaper, which portrayed her in a light she didn’t really like. What can she do? Especially as she typed her name in Google recently and found that the interview had moved to 7th place on the entries under her name. It used to be in 10th place. She says it means more people are reading it.

I realise that by writing this, I may be persuading more people to read the interview, pushing it even higher up, … that is if it is true that the more people read a story, the more popular it is. However, I write this because of my perception of journalists who interview people. I look at it as a game, the journalist is trying to sell a newspaper and the interviewee is trying to sell his/her image. Sometimes, (but very rarely) their interests coincide, but only sometimes. I haven’t seen a newspaper hurt by an interview, except in the libel courts. But I have heard of many complaining interviewees.

I suppose Itoo have suffered a little in this game. On 15 May, 1987, a Nigerian newspaper published an interview with 5 visually impaired students of the University of Lagos. I was one of the interviewees; I remember wondering how all 5 of us said the same things, yet the newspaper managed to find a different angle for each of us. I was portrayed as the cultured one, dressed in branded clothes. I recall that one of the most importantthings I said from the angle of the interviewee was that I had a girlfriend. Another friend of mine was portrayed as the troublemaker and his observations on the inaccessible entrance to Mariere hall was prominent. I too had noted this point, but my own observations received less coverage.

I don’t know how this interview affected the sales of the Sunday Concord, but it had two effects on the visually impaired community of Unilag. First, we were all called to meet some senior officials of the university and warned not to bring the name of the university into disrepute. The open ditch outside the entrance to Mariere hall remained till I left, I still encountered it while visiting some friends in the mid1990s.

On a positive note, a lecturer set up a fund which procured equipment for some visually impaired students. Professor Abiola Ojo died suddenly a few years ago, and I wrote a short post about his good works. https://notion.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/104/

I write all this because I’ve been interviewed again. Actually, this was very different. You can read all about it at http://alotedbabe.blogspot.com and this time, I hope you enjoy it. Aloted has done what all journalists should do, put down word for word what the interviewee has said. That way, she doesn’t get accused of manipulating my words. Of course, it helps that she’s a really good friend and wouldn’t want to distort anything I say, just to achieve increased readership of her blog. To tell the truth, she made no claims of being a journalist, which is a good thing. For that reason, if you don’t like the piece, blame me, I confess they’re all my words, except for the questions and the title.

I’m not sure this was planned, but Aloted’s blogpost came out a day before the international day for disabled people. In your own way, you increased awareness of disability, thanks Aloted.

But even with full responsibility, do I feel better about the interview? First, I feel really humbled and honoured that Aloted (and now her readers who have commented on the story) think I have something to say. At the same time, I’m not really sure I said it as well as I should. Maybe I sounded like one of those pompous ones who think they have a philosophy to spread. Maybe I went on for much too long (like I’m doing now). Maybe a more critical reader than myself would come up with some analysis that doesn’t put me in such a good light after all.

First confession, Although I agreed readily to the interview, I sat on it for a while. I suppose I was a little ambivalent, but here’s the second confession, having answered the questions, I’m curious for reaction.

For all that she’s not a professional journalist, Aloted asks searching questions. She made me really consider what I was saying. Maybe this is the way a real professional should go about it, put the actual views of the interviewee. I still don’t want to give the wrong impression about myself. Maybe responding to interview questions is like dressing up. You know when you’re leaving the house that people are looking at you. You may want to create the impression of a sharp dresser, a cool dude, an area boy or just your ordinary inconspicuous citizen. Whatever you put on, you do it consciously, or at least subconsciously, second guessing what the man on the street is seeing.

I don’t think it’s supersensitive or vain to wonder what you’re thinking after you’ve read Aloted’s piece. If I didn’t say it very well there, here’s all I really wanted to communicate. I’m visually impaired, but I have faith and hope. There’s a lot to learn about visual impairment, but there’s also a lot for visually impaired people to learn about sighted people. Understanding each other is the key to all the improvements we desire. I want to, and I can live a full life, and I’d love you all to join me in it. I know there’s much more, because each person is so multidimensional, a few words can’t do sufficient justice. So perhaps I shouldn’t bother trying to explain myself to you, I just can’t manage it after all. But if you don’t think it strange, let me know what you think of the interview.

God bless.

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