World Education Services (WES) is the leading credential evaluation services provider in Canada and the USA. Serving customers from worldwide who are looking to immigrate to North America, its Advisor Blog provides the latest news, updates, and tips to their current and prospective customers as well as new immigrants.
In May 2020, I had the pleasure to participate in a short-term project, the Stories of Immigrants, as a temporary blogger. The project consisted of 2 parts: Stories of Immigrant and Life Narrative Project, featuring the immigration and settlement stories of 18 individuals who moved to the USA. They represent a wide array of immigrant voices, including refugees, third-culture kids, and immigrants from different corners of the globe. Each article details their considerations to leave their home country, struggles in a new country, settlement journeys, and their tips of integrating into a new culture.
5 weeks (May 2020 – June 2020)
- Selecting relevant content from source interview transcript and reformatting into in Q&A, interview-structured articles;
- Shortening the 1-hour interview script into 800- to 1000-word blogposts.
- Developing hooks, ensure coherency of narratives;
- Formulating blog title and subheadings;
- Restructuring life-story interview narratives into engaging journalistic writings.
This project was the perfect combination of my passions: Writing about immigrants’ experiences. However, I have encountered multiple unforeseen challenges as a writer because this was my first project in journalistic writing.
Due to the journalistic, Q&A nature of the blog posts, I constantly reflected on the role of a writer and questioned: How should I convey the interviewee’s experiences most authentically, to balance spoken English and written English forms?
A large part of the Stories of Immigrants Project was to write articles by listening to recorded interviews. While the interview content is rich and fruitful, the oral, instantaneous responsive nature of the interviews entails imperfect expressions, grammatical errors, excessive filler words, and flawed logical flow.
Struggling between representing authenticity and creating a readable blogpost, below are some challenges I faced as I worked on the project:
- How much orality should I preserve in the writing? What are journalistic writing anyway?
- Do the filler words (e.g. “well”, “you know”) which I heard in the audio need to be transcribed in order to faithfully represent the interviewee’s uncertainness, hesitance, and doubts?
- How much editing and rephrasing is needed?
- Should I add anything (e.g., transitional words) to tighten up the story structure?
- What information should I select and include in the blogpost so that the word count doesn’t exhaust?
I was grateful to be mentored by the Department Manager, who shared tips from her experiences as a former journalist. Here are some of the takeaways which effectively helped resolving the initial challenges I faced:
- Rule of Thumb: Stay faithful to the interviewee to ensure authenticity and personal brand. Orality doesn’t hurt.
- To enhance the write-up’s cohesion, the journalist could add brackets like [this] to supplement information gaps, or use […] to omit irrelevant information when quoting the interview.
- Think from the interviewee’s perspectives:
- Will the interviewee be pleased to read this interview blog post?
- Did I summarize the key events and significant anecdotes of the interviewee’s life faithfully?
- Use empathy to understand why the interviewee included anecdotes in their interviews at the time of speaking.
It was my pleasure to take part in this project in the capacity as a writer and blogger. After completing the project in 5 weeks’ time, the articles were published every 2 weeks on WES Advisor Blog.