Conduct an Interview

Recorded interviews can be a great way to capture stories and memories to contribute to the Coalition Archive.  Recordings can be preserved at the Southern Historical Collection’s Digital Repository.  They can also be edited and highlights created to post on the website.   For tips on conducting and recording an interview, see below.  Once you have completed a recording, contact Biff Hollingsworth at to arrange for its inclusion in the Archive.

Interview Tips

1. Decide on a focus or theme for the conversation.

2. Confirm when everyone is available: interviewer, interviewee(s), and possibly a third person to handle the recording.

3. Schedule a Zoom meeting (or use another online meeting application). Learn how to record and save the interview (either as a Cloud link or by downloading to your personal computer) before beginning.

4. Distribute interview questions well in advance. Encourage the interviewee to suggest additional or alternative questions.

5. Give everyone a chance to get comfortable before hitting “record.”

6. Begin the recording by asking participants to introduce themselves one by one (including the person conducting the interview). Ask each participant where that person is located now, when that person worked with SHC/CHS, doing what, and for how long.

7. You don’t have to stick to a script of questions. It’s fine to let the conversation go where it will. But keep an eye on the clock. The interviews seem to go best if you can keep them to around one hour or less.

8. To submit the recorded interview to the Archive, send the recording’s Cloud link or file to Biff Hollingsworth at

Sample Questions for a Personal Story Interview

• Tell us your name, where you live now, and what you are doing for work or retirement.

• What kind of work did you do with the SHC?

• Were you a member of the traveling health fair team or did you live in a particular community during the summer?

• What was your educational background at the point you joined the SHC?

• Describe the circumstances around your decision to join the SHC. What persuaded you to join? If you hadn’t joined the SHC, what would you have done during that summer instead?

• Talk about relationships you might have had with members of the community. How would you characterize the relationships? Who did you know best, and why? Are you still in touch?

• Talk about your relationships with fellow members of the SHC. Were there memorable characters among them?

• While working with the SHC, were you ever afraid–for your life, or your health? Describe the circumstances.

• Were there other comical, vexing, or inspiring moments that stand out in your memory from the summer(s) you worked with the SHC?

• How would you describe the basic strategies for change that were embraced by the SHC back then? How did you learn about those strategies? From books, from each other, from classwork?

• What were the weaknesses in the SHC plan to do organizing or to improve health care delivery in East Tennessee? What made you uncomfortable or even upset about the plan/approach?

• What worked well? Why, or how?

• When you left the SHC, where did you go next?

• What further education did you seek after your SHC experience?

• Can you talk about how your time with the SHC influences the work you do now – or that you did before retirement?

• Looking back, did the SHC make a difference? How can we measure outcomes of the work we did back in the 60’s and 70’s?

Example Questions from an Interview about the Center for Health Services’ Origin Story

Joe Little, Bob Hartmann, and Irwin Venick on the disputes that circulated during the origin of the Center for Health Services (CHS). Questions were distributed two weeks before the interview. Margaret Ecker served as interviewer, Gillian McCuistion as tech support.

For each of you up front:

• Tell us your name, where you live now, and what you are doing now for work or retirement.

• What kind of work did you do when you signed up with the SHC, and where?

For the group:

• As a precursor to the whole notion of the Center, it seems important to first review what it was we were up to in the earliest days of the SHC.

• Can you describe the strategies for change that were embraced by the Coalition in its earliest iteration?

• What informed the impulse to establish permanence? Permanence of what? What practical things, what philosophical things?

• In his essay, Bill describes multiple examples of how foundation moneys were spent or sequestered without input from the SHC. Were you aware of these issues at the time? How do you remember them? Do you recall that moneys were withheld from ETRC?

• What do you think the Medical School meant when it used the term Community Medicine? How did their conception differ from the SHC’s use of the term?

• Bill’s essay is especially poignant in its reminders about vox populi (voice of the community and voice of the student), which he felt were routinely excluded from decisions about money, curriculum, and health care delivery. Was he right?’

• Back in the day, Bill made the case that academic research was ignorant of community, and that if the Center took that direction, it would become impotent as a change agent. Joe made the case that the time was ripe, and that natural selection would extinguish the SHC flame without a commitment to study and data collection. How do you recall your feelings and thoughts about those issues?

• As you look back at the leadership of Dick Couto (a consummate academic) and eventually Barbara Clinton (MS in social work), do you think Bill was right? Do you think Joe was right? Did the Center move academia over time? Did communities benefit? How do we define benefit?

• Mary Mikel and Ginnie Munford recall an almost palpable tension at the Center, as Dick and Bill tried to navigate their relationship as well as the operational work of the Center in its earliest days. How do you remember that tension? Was it about personality, or philosophy?

• Should we take a few moments to review the Tricia Nixon incident? Did the controversy of her visit to the Center reflect the same sorts of concerns that were evident at the birth of the Center? Or not?

• For each of you, in closing: Before we end this conversation, can you talk about how your time with the SHC and/or Center influenced the work you have taken on during your career? When you think about issues of sustainability in the work you do, do you see evidence of your experiences with the SHC and with the process of establishing the Center?