Wow, who knew such a field existed! Apparently ‘important’ people have their own body of literature related to interviewing them. To interview elites, you need an elite guide!
Elite interviewing appears to become defined largely due to the access challenges and power differentials when researchers interview influential and powerful members of society. Such as CEOs, Presidents, Politicians, Judges, Hollywood Actors, Lords, Ladies, Gentry and Clergy.
Two aspects have leapt out at me today whilst reading about this, 1) if that researchers often in this area need introductions of a trusted intermediary in order to be ‘invited in’ to the so called ‘inner’ circle, and then need to rapidly gain rapport and yet trying to gain something of an ‘equal footing’ within the meetings, and 2) that researchers struggle gaining access to diaries just because the interview target is so busy (think that probably applies to insiders and outsiders alike sometimes!).
There is a lot to think about here, preliminary research, approaching candidates, establishing legitimacy and trust, practical issues (how to record the conversation), and most especially ethical issues. How much do you reveal of yourself and how critical/challenging should you be in the interview but at the same time trying to preserve and continue to establish your role within the ‘inner circle’ and also being conscious of wanting more interviews and access and thus not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ so much that trust, and thus access is lost.
Is it better to position yourself as a neutral observer and allow your interviewees to ‘educate’ you recognising it partial viewpoint and bias, or is it better to position yourself as a researcher who knows something of the area under discussion and develop a more equal position in the discussion?
What do you think?