Interviewing Tips
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Interviewing Tips

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This slideshow focuses on development of strong interviewing techniques by journalists. Find more journalism tips and tricks at http://www.virtualjournalism.net.

This slideshow focuses on development of strong interviewing techniques by journalists. Find more journalism tips and tricks at http://www.virtualjournalism.net.

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Interviewing Tips Interviewing Tips Presentation Transcript

  • Interviewing Presented by Brett Atwood Washington State University More at: VirtualJournalism.net
  • Interviewing • Your goal is to get accurate and interesting information for your story • There are several strategies available to get your subject to talk
  • Building Trust • A source that trusts you will be more likely to open up • To establish trust, you may need to spend some time with the subjects • If you are on a “beat,” then you may want to socially network with your most important recurring sources View slide
  • Building Trust • Remember that your sources are human beings • They will respond better to you if you have a good track record with them • Honesty and empathy always work! View slide
  • Funnel Interview • Save your toughest questions for last • This enables time to build trust with your interview subject
  • Trustbusters • “Burning” a source with bad ink • Misquoting a source • Identifying an anonymous source • Misrepresenting your intentions • Failure to answer any concerns/questions that the source may have before the interview
  • Trustbusters • Your first encounter with the source is critical since the first impression is made • In most cases, you will want to put the source at ease • However, in some serious interviews, you will deliberately want to use the tension to your advantage
  • Tension Strategy • When you know a subject is being deceitful, it might be good to keep the tension so that the subject’s true motives are more transparent
  • Inverted Funnel • Tough, specific questions first – Use if you have little time – Use if you need to nail down an answer
  • Preparing for the Interview • Preparation strategies for the interview will vary • What kind of interview are you doing? – News – Profile/Feature – Investigative – Broadcast TV/radio
  • The News Story • Use all available resources to research the history of the subject covered • Go direct to the source – but don’t expect them to tell you the “whole story” • An “off the record” insider may help you get a fresh perspective
  • “Off the Record” • Hotly debated topic • Is it ethical to gather info “off the record”? • Should everything be fair game? • Can you use information gained “off the record” without directly quoting the information or source?
  • Sources • Some sources will want to remain anonymous • If you agree to keep their identity private, it is unethical to reveal their names to anyone – Exceptions: • Government subpoena – If it is determined to jeopardize the national security or is essential is solving a crime • Publication policy – Due to some problems with reporter integrity, some publications are now requiring reporters to share the identity of the anonymous reporter with their supervising editor
  • Use Caution • Be aware of sources that have an axe to grind • Do they have an agenda? • Are they telling the truth? • Are they reliable? – Substance abuse = suspicion • Do they really have a direct connection to the news event? – Be careful of “hearsay”
  • Off the Record • If a subject tries to go “off the record,” you should try to get them to stay “on the record” • Usually they will still talk • Tell them you need the attribution for the sake of credibility • Or…you can return to the topic in an “on the record” question later in the interview to get your quote
  • Common Problems for Beginners • Beginning reporters often are afraid to ask probing questions that might anger the subject – You are there to get the story right above all else • They also get manipulated by the subjects who give a lot of sanitized, “canned” responses – Style but no substance
  • Dealing with Jerks • It will happen…often. • Don’t take it personally. • If they question your motives, then let reassure them that you intend to be fair and accurate in your reporting • Keep calm • Explain why the answer is necessary for the story
  • Uncomfortable Interviews • You may encounter an interview that is difficult to conduct due to the sensitivity of the subject • While personally uncomfortable, these often make for some of the best interviews • Example: – Interviewing someone who has just been laid off – Interviewing someone who has just had a death in the family – Interviewing someone who has been accused of a crime – Interviewing someone who is defensive or hostile
  • Uncomfortable Interviews • Remember that they are human, too • Behave appropriately • There is a fine line between being aggressive and obnoxious
  • The Rambling Interview • Some subjects ramble off subject • This may be unintentional, but sometimes it is a deliberate attempt to dodge a difficult question • Don’t be afraid to steer them back on track
  • Persistence Pays • When conducting an interview, make sure that your key questions are answered • If the subject does not know an answer, ask them who in the organization is available to respond • Many subjects will try to escape accountability through “double speak” and “passing the buck”
  • No Stone Left Unturned • When you write your story, you should have answers to the key questions • If you don’t, then you should include an explanation for the absence of clear information – Example: “A spokesperson declined to comment on…” – Example: “The cause of the fire was still undetermined, according to…” – Example: “The company isn’t disclosing the amount paid for the acquisition. However, the financial terms are expected to be revealed in tomorrow’s filing with the SEC.”
  • Expert Jargon • Sometimes you will interview industry experts that use jargon that is unfamiliar to the general public • Try to get the expert to rephrase the information in clearer terms • At a minimum, make sure that you fully understand the jargon so that you can paraphrase correctly • Don’t be afraid to admit your ignorance!
  • Be Provocative • Aim for a provocative interview without being confrontational • You are there to get the story – not start a fight!
  • Feature/Profile Story • Go beyond the main subject interview to get the “full story” • Talk to friends and family members to help get a diverse perspective on the subject interviewed • Your writing style will likely include observations and details that would not be appropriate in a “news” report/article
  • Investigative Reporting • Be prepared to spend a longer amount of time preparing this piece • You must strategize in how you ask your questions, as well as WHO to ask questions and WHEN to ask them • Example: At a certain point, your inquiries can result in actions that impede or prevent further investigation
  • Broadcast Interviews • When you conduct an interview for TV or radio, the goal is to get a sound bite that can be extracted and edited into a larger news piece
  • Types of Broadcast Interviews • News Interviews – Gather info on a news event – Usually quick and to-the-point • Feature Interviews – Designed to entertain – May be more in-depth
  • Interview Editing • While some interviews are done live, many are pre-recorded and edited • In the editing room, the actual interview may be chopped down considerably to include only significant soundbites
  • Sound Bite – Sometimes unintentional but often strategized – Memorable and catchy quote – Quick, focused – Captures the essence of your point – May be funny “one liner”
  • Infamous Sound Bites • “I never had sex with that woman” • “Can’t we all just get along?” • “Read my lips: no new taxes!”
  • Pre-Interview • Not all announcers use the pre-interview • It can serve as a good rehearsal for both host and guest • Can help to focus topic of discussion • Danger of losing spontaneity
  • Altered States • There are some things that will alter the “mood” of the interview subject • Example: – The physical presence of a camera or tape recorder may cause the subject to “perform” or be more careful in considering what they reveal
  • Your Secret Weapon • Here is one of the best kept secrets for interviewing: – Some of the best information comes in the casual conversation that follows the “interview” – After the camera or tape has stopped and the pen is put away, the subject may begin to converse casually and reveal better information than given previously
  • Interview Skills • Don’t talk too much if the interview is for broadcast media • Keep the guest and topic on focus • Don’t ask overly complex questions – If necessary, then make sure that you explain complexities in easy to understand language • Listen! – Adjust questions when necessary
  • Interview Skills • Ask Follow-up Questions • Offer non-verbal feedback to responses • Ask for clarification, if necessary
  • Types of Questions • Closed ended questions – Answered with simple “yes” or “no” – Example: “Do you like your job?” – Generally makes a bad interview • Open ended questions – Provides opportunity for broad answers – Example: “What do you like about your job?”
  • Interview Tips • Avoid leading questions – “You don’t like George Bush, do you?” • Avoid obvious questions – “Were you unhappy when your movie flopped?” • If the interview is being broadcast, plan your transitions from topic to topic ahead of time
  • Keep Your Cool • Maintain control of the interview • Know when and how to interrupt to keep guest from rambling • Maintain a neutral/objective view
  • Build to the Point • Save your most volatile questions for the end of the interview • Begin with easier questions to establish a connection and trust with your guest
  • Prepare Your Questions • Troubleshoot your interview before it occurs • Plan questions ahead of time • You probably won’t use all of your questions, but the process is helpful in establishing a focus to your actual interview
  • Accuracy Check • Inevitably, you will encounter a need to clarify a quote or note that you have taken during the interview • It is not uncommon to “fact check” with the subject by following up directly with them after the conclusion of the interview • In some cases, a quote is read back to confirm that it is accurate …or to ask for clarification
  • Fact Checking • Be cautious when a subject presents a statistic as if it is fact • Be prepared to confirm all statistics with an independent source • Statistics are often manipulated
  • Using Quotes • Only use a quote if it conveys something that can’t be communicated better in your own words • Often a better strategy is paraphrasing what the subject has told you
  • Using Quotes • Use quote if it is particularly articulate or powerful in the wording • Most people do not speak in a way that translates well into a quote
  • Using Quotes • The more significant the interviewee is, the more likely a reader will be interested • Make sure that the quote is used to add a unique angle or credibility to the story
  • Quoting Accurately • If the grammar is poor, then some reporters will “clean up” the quote • This practice varies by publication • HOWEVER, if the interview was witnessed by multiple media outlets (example: press conference) then you should leave the quotes alone
  • (sic) • If you want to be cautious, then you can use the “(sic)” notation in your printed quote to notate a grammatical error made by your subject
  • Observation • Sometimes a key part of the story lies in what is observed, rather than spoken • Pay attention to the body language or non-verbal cues from your subject