Interviewing is the one of the most basic - andoften the most intimidating - tasks in journalism. Some journalists are naturals in that area andsome never get comfortable with the idea of askingstrangers nosy question.
The good news is that basic interviewing skillscan be learned. Here are some tips.
Which works better when interviewing a source, taking notes the old-fashioned way or using a cassette or digital voice recorder? Both have their pros and cons.
A reporters notebook and while recorders enable youa pen or pencil are the to get literally everythingeasy-to-use, time-honored someone says, word-for-tools of the interviewing word. Which works better?trade, It depends on what kind of story youre doing.
Just as there are many different kinds of newsstories, there are many different kinds ofinterviews. Its Important to fInd the rIght approach, or tone, dependIng on the nature of the IntervIew. so what kInd of tone should be used In dIfferent IntervIewIng sItuatIons?
T he conversational and easygoing approach is bestwhen youre doing a classic man-on-the-street interview. A verage people are often nervous when approached by a reporter.
But an all-business tone is effective when youreinterviewing people who are accustomed todealing with reporters.
Many beginning reporters complainthat with a notepad and pen they cannever take down everything a sourcesays in an interview, and they worryabout writing fast enough in order toget quotes exactly right.
So you’ve done a long interview with a source,you have pages of notes, and you’re ready to write.But chances are you’ll only be able to fit a few quotes from that lengthy interview into your article.
WHICH ONES SHOULD YOU USE? Reporters often talk about using only “good”quotes for their stories, but what does thismean? Broadly speaking, a good quote is whensomeone says something interesting, and says it inan interesting way.
If you decided what to use in your interview and how to use it then here are some details you might want to check up on before you go…1. Af ter determining who you want to talk with, consider what information you want to get. It may even be a good idea to jot down a list star ting with, "I want to find out . . . ."
2. Contact the person you wish to talk with far enough in advance that he or she has time to get ready, but not so far in advance that their schedules are not yet developed. When you make an appointment, you need to introduce yourself and tell what capacity you are calling in, explain the purpose of your call, explain why you would like to talk with the person, and request permission to set a time and place. If you will be recording the interview, ask permission to do so ahead of time.
3. Prepare for the interview by finding out about the person you will be interviewing and by preparing questions to ask.
4. If you want witness-type information, a few open-ended questions which invite the person to tell her story. Be ready with follow up questions like, "Could you tell me more about that?"
5. If you want expert opinion, create more pointed questions, questions that suggest particular issues you would like to explore. Questions still need to be open ended, something like, "I would very much like to know what your analysis is of so and so." Be willing to let the person drift off to a neighboring topic, because she may know more about the lay of the argument than you do, and she may be giving you information you really wanted and didnt know how to ask for. Reser ve a ver y general question for the end, something like, "Have other things occurred to you during the inter view that you would like to say at this time?"
6. If you want facts, make your questions as precise as possible, making it clear that youre after data.It is important that the person you are interviewing know ahead of time that he or she will be asked such questions, because people seldom carry that kind of data around in their heads. Reserve a general question for the end.
7.When it is time for the interview, be punctual--not early, and certainly not late.
8. Be forthcoming when you meet, introducing yourself and briefly reminding the person why you wanted to talk. If you are unsure about how to spell the persons name, ask about that and about their official title.
9. If you will be taping the interview, ask permission to do so.
10. As you ask the questions and listen to the responses, look at the persons face and eyes to show that you are interested and that you value what youre getting. From time to time make brief notes, but dont bury yourself in notetaking.
11. Try to get some direct quotes, sayingsomething like, "I like the way you said that. Can Iquote you?" And then get the words down inquotation marks.12. Reserve a general question for the end.
13. Briefly summarize what you have covered and how you understand the information you have been given.
14.Dont linger. If youpromised to take only 30minutes, then stick toyour schedule, but dontbe rude. Say somethinglike, "I promised to takeonly 30 minutes of yourtime, and I see I have. Isthere any last thing youwant to add before I go?"
You might also say something like, "This hasbeen very informative. If some other questionoccurs to me, may I get back in touch withyou?"
W h e n y o u le a v e , s p e n d t im eim m e d ia t e ly w r it in g d o w nn o te s . M a k e s u r e yo u h a v et h e d a t e a n d p la c e o f t h ein t e r v ie w .