Know What You Want The effective interviewer knows what he or she wants from an interview. The interviewer is like a chess player, never moving a piece or asking a question without a greater purpose. TIP: In the front of your notebook, write a list of the 5-6 questions that readers would ask about your story and number them in the order that they would ask them.
When planning an interview…Here’s what to ask yourself at the outset of reporting: What do I want to know? What does my audience need to know? Who is most likely to give me what I need? Who is closest to the action or issue -- the city councilwoman or the neighborhood resident, the police spokeswoman or the crime victim’s spouse?
Who Do You Talk to? Think about who will be the best source of information for your story This person is your primary source Your secondary source is a person or document that can give you supplemental information
Example 1 You are asked to do a story about Dr. Longenecker implementing a recycling and conservation plan at South. Who would be your primary source? Who would be a secondary source?
Example 2 You are asked to write a story about the construction at the front entrance of the school during freshman orientation. Who would be your primary source? Who would be a secondary source?
Example 3 You are assigned a story about the football team’s first home game this Friday. Who would be your primary source? Who would be a secondary source?
A reporter is only as good ashis/her sources… SELECT SOURCES for relevance, to focus each story on what’s most important CHECK SOURCES for accuracy, to ensure all facts and statements are true BALANCE SOURCES for fairness, to represent all sides of every issue CULTIVATE SOURCES for tips and story ideas in the future
When You’ve Decided WhoYou’re Going To Interview… Do some research—research the topic and definitely research the person you are interviewing (VIDEO) Plan your questions! Try to put your easiest questions first to ‘warm up’ your subject Leave the hardest questions for last when you’ve already established some trust or rapport
Start with… Introducing yourself and your publication: This establishes that the interview is “on the record” Simple but important information like the subject’s age, the spelling of their name and their job title Questions you may already know the answer to. Feel free to state the answer and ask “correct?” This shows the interviewee you have done your research.
Remember To: Budget your time. If you only have five minutes with someone, don’t waste time with chit chat. Keep it simple! Avoid long, rambling, two- or three- part questions. It’s more efficient (and easier on the interviewee) to ask one question at a time. Look around. Write down what you see, smell, hear; take note of hand gestures, physical descriptions and other observations that add color or lead to questions.
More to Remember… Focus your questions Broad questions (What’s it like being on the soccer team?”) are harder to answer than precise ones (“How did it feel to score the winning goal?”) You can ask someone to slow down… If you’re falling behind in your notes, although silence is also very effective in generating answers YOU ARE IN CHARGE You’ll ask the questions and you’ll keep asking until you’re satisfied. Don’t let anyone intimidate you or try to dominate the interview by taking it in another direction.
What to Avoid… Be conversational but don’t make the interview all about you (VIDEO) Never coerce or argue with your subject Stay away from ‘-est’ questions such as ‘what was your proudest moment?’ as they are cliche and limit conversation. Stick with ‘what was a proud moment?’ Stay away from yes/no questions which do not yield quotable responses. (VIDEO)
Listen The most important skill the interviewer has is not asking questions—it is listening to the answers Listen to the responses, them ask follow-up questions to explain, expand and examine The person you’re interviewing says, “It wasn’t the first time I felt the way I did.” What would be some follow-up questions to ask?
Listening Activity Find someone in the room whose shoes most closely resemble yours. Sit down together. Close your eyes and picture a place that is very special to you—for whatever reason. A/B Talk/Listen Discuss good listening characteristics
Concluding the Interview Ask if there is anything that the interviewee wants to add, any important areas that were missed in the interview or anyone else you should contact Double-check any statistics, confusing information or possible direct quotes Thank the source and tell them when the story will probably run. Ask if you can contact them again, if necessary, for additional information.