Interview Series Gives Students a Professional Platform
Published: Friday, December 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, December 7, 2012 12:12
Faith Complex, a web interview series that explores the intersection of faith, religion and culture through interviews with various experts, filmed its latest installment in Riggs Library Tuesday.
Jacques Berlinerblau, the director of Georgetown’s Program for Jewish Civilization, founded the series in 2009 with a Reflective Engagement grant for academic research from University President John J. DeGioia, though the series is currently funded by the PJC.
When the program first began, Berlinerblau conducted all the interviews.
“People were asking me a lot of questions in 2008 [after I published a book],” Berlinerblau said. “It hit me that I wanted to get on the other side of this and ask the questions.”
Over the past three semesters, students have taken the lead. They conducted nine of the 11 interviews Tuesday.
“At PJC, we have a model: students come first,” Berlinerblau said. “It made sense that students would lead [Faith Complex]. We very much have a journalistic attitude here at the PJC.”
Ghazi Bin Hamed (SFS ’15), a former student of Berlinerblau’s freshman proseminar “Secularism in America,” said that the students treat the project as a professional endeavor.
“The thing is, Faith Complex is very legitimate because we’re on all of these platforms,” Hamed said. “We don’t think of ourselves as students when we’re filming the show. Most interviewees may think that it is not that professional, but it changes their mind when they see our set and production.”
Faith Complex has two production days and airs approximately 20 episodes on YouTube, The Huffington Post and on the web platform of magazine The Jewish Week each year.
“An alum had a connection to The Huffington Post,” Hamed said. “Otherwise, we send out emails to relevant blogs linking to the video. We don’t seek royalties. It’s very hodgepodge, but it works out at the end of the day.”
The interviews all contain an element of faith, though the connection is not readily apparent at first. Interviews explore topics ranging from hip-hop theology to a new museum about Polish Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.
“We’re a very eclectic group with very different interests,” Hamed said. “I usually seek interviewees with an artsier or more creative side to things. Once you find that connection between the interviewer and the subject, that’s what makes a good piece.”
According to Hamed, Faith Complex utilizes professor and family relationships in seeking speakers. Group members generally send a total of 20 to 30 emails and receive 15 responses, which lead to six or seven interviews.
The show has attracted many high-profile guests in the past, including former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and columnists from The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Danny Woods (SFS ’16), who works for the PJC, pointed to Georgetown’s prestige as the factor that makes Faith Complex so successful in finding guests.
“[Faith Complex] gives them the chance to speak to a young college audience and to be involved in their development,” Woods said. “We, as Georgetown students, have a good reputation for being serious.”
The series, however, prides itself on its inclusion of Georgetown professors as guests, including former Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs visiting professor Abdullahi An-Na’im and sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson.
Berlinerblau said that he hoped to make professors a more prominent part of the show.
“Georgetown has such a dynamic faculty,” Berlinerblau said. “I want to help them radiate.”
This session of interviews included Director of the Religion and Public Policy Program at the Woodstock Theological Center Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., Director of Research at the Public Religion Research Institute Daniel Cox, senior writer for Tablet Magazine Allison Hoffman, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America Edwina Rogers, associate professor in the government department Michele Swers and author of “The Soul of Hip Hop” Daniel White Hodge.
In his interview, Reese spoke about the role of religion in the 2012 presidential election.
“I talked about the conflict between U.S. Catholic Bishops and Obama, and their concerns about abortion, gay marriage and the freedom of religion. I talked about the fact that Catholics voted for Obama instead of following the bishops,” Reese said.
Reese said that the student-conducted interviews were a welcome departure from his usual interviews with reporters.
“I’ve done a lot of these kinds of interviews,” Reese said. “I get hundreds of phone calls from reporters. It was nice to do it with Georgetown students.”
Reese added that the students were as good as professional reporters in conducting the interview.
“They had someone to do makeup. … It all went very seamlessly,” Reese said. “The interviewer had questions that they were prepared to ask. Normally, the producer will call you and give you a feel for what the angle [of the segment] is and what your responses will be, then when you get with the interviewer, God only knows what will happen. But [Faith Complex] was not like that.”
Katelyn McNelis (SFS ’15) interviewed Reese and was interested in his thoughts on Paul Ryan’s use of Catholicism to support his budget plan, which Reese has spoken about in many media outlets and as a guest on “The Colbert Report.”
“I was raised Catholic and my personal interpretation of Catholic doctrine isn’t in accordance with a lot of the ways Catholicism is taught by the bishops. It was interesting to hear that point of view from a priest,” McNelis said.