About This Interview ArticleThe interview article example below was written after interviewing former Milwaukee-Mayor, John Norquist. Interview articles can be used for newspapers, magazines, websites or newsletters.
When preparing for an interview, make sure to have your well-thought-out questions prepared and try not to take too much time from the interviewee.
Interview Article Sample:
By Greg Quigley
An evening with Milwaukee Mayor, John Norquist, can make for some interesting conversations. And that’s exactly what happened last Tuesday night at “The Mayor Unplugged,” an event put on by the Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM).
The topics of the evening ranged from Norquist’s all-time favorite, New Urbanism, to school choice, to racism. And the mayor explained his views in that unique John Norquist way that will be as much a part of his legacy as the Park East Freeway demolition.
The event was held at the Milwaukee Ale House in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Planned and managed by the YPM Urban Currents team, the format was basically question and answer, with Norquist beginning with a quick history of cities, suburbs and the benefits of the urban lifestyle. The following is a summary of the evening’s discussions and an interview with the mayor following the event:
What makes a great city?
According John Norquist Milwaukee has what it takes and New Berlin doesn’t. This was one of Norquist’s many comments about the western suburb during the evening. “Milwaukee has all the things that Americans are looking for in great cities, but it has to be itself. It can’t be a Pewaukee or New Berlin,” he said. One New Berlin resident even turned to me and said, “I live there, but I don’t want to!” However, Norquist wasn’t trying to single out New Berlin, he was simply using it as an example of a typical suburban city – separate zoning for housing, entertainment and retail areas – making driving a necessity and walking nearly extinct.
Norquist’s New Urbanist views dictate that a city should use a mixed-used development style, rather than the separate style that New Berlin and several other suburbs use. “There’s gold in Milwaukee’s urban environment,” said Norquist, referring to the city’s ability to attract people to live here.
What’s next for Milwaukee?
One of the biggest complaints you hear about Milwaukee’s downtown is its lack of retail. Not for long, according to the mayor. In fact, Norquist pointed out some urban areas, such as Mitchell Street and Kinnickinnic Avenue that already have thriving neighborhood retail centers. “Go down to Mitchell Street on a Saturday morning and you’ll see a vibrant urban retail district packed with pedestrians.”
Norquist also sees good thing for downtown’s Wisconsin Avenue: “I see Wisconsin Avenue becoming a destination shopping area once again.”
In the next 10 to 15 years, Norquist feels there will be more people living in the city. “People with discretionary income will move to Milwaukee because of its vibrant, urban environment and beauty. The density of the neighborhoods will increase with housing and businesses as people buy up available land.” He also sees the schools improving and the political climate changing. “Groups like YPM are talking about issues and will help to change some of the old, stodgy politics that exist in the city.”
Young talent and Milwaukee
One of YPM’s goals is to attract and retain young talent to Milwaukee. Norquist feels that now is the perfect time for YPM and young professionals in the city. “Young people are sick of suburbs and unsatisfied with office parks where their only view is of a parking lot. They like the choices they get in cities.” Norquist stated that not only will Milwaukee attract young professionals, but the urban settings of older suburbs like Wauwatosa and Shorewood will benefit from young professionals as well.
However, with downtown Milwaukee condo prices in the $250,000 and up range and almost half of YPM members making under $50,000 a year, can young professionals even afford to live downtown? According to Norquist, yes, but they may have some searching to do. “If you look hard enough you’ll be able to find something in the city,” he said. “Properties are cheaper west of the river, and areas just outside of downtown, like Bay View, are still affordable.”
When asked what YPM members can do to shape and showcase a greater Milwaukee, Norquist’s answer was to add value. “Think about initiatives that are taking place and ask yourself if they add value to the city and to the quality of life. If it doesn’t add value then we shouldn’t do it.” Norquist felt that a group such as YPM could support or reject ideas that didn’t add value and gave the example of the Park East Freeway demolition.
Norquist’s victories and battles
All modesty aside, Norquist feels his greatest accomplishment as mayor was getting the city to like itself and its urbanism, rather than remaking itself as a suburb. He also mentioned supporting school choice, keeping spending below the rate of inflation and appointing the first minorities to head city departments as other accomplishments under his belt.
If you read the paper or watch the news, you’ve probably seen some of Norquist’s battles plastered all over the headlines. One of his biggest, and most passionate, is with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) regarding transit in Milwaukee. SEWRPC authored a study for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that, among other things, recommends widening of miles of freeways to fight traffic congestion. “Widening freeways to fight congestion is like loosening you belt to fight obesity, it just doesn’t work,” said Norquist.
Norquist, feels the SEWRPC’s plan is too expensive and will increase sprawl. “SEWRPC is outdated and totally out of touch with the city of Milwaukee,” said Norquist. “Their plan for widening the freeway system is profoundly stupid and the organization should be eliminated.”
The plan from the Mayor Unplugged event was to hear an “uncensored” John Norquist before he leaves office in January to head up the Congress for a New Urbanism. However, the mayor has always been one to say what’s on his mind, and this event and follow-up interview were no exception.
The Mayor Unplugged event ended on a light note, as one of the audience members asked the mayor to sing. Although he declined, the evening wouldn’t end without a song. The Ale House filled with the sounds of “Happy Birthday” sung by the crowd of young professionals. The recipient was none other than John Norquist, who would turn 54 the next day – the last birthday he’ll celebrate as mayor of a great city.