Tricks of the trade: Interviewing
My co-worker was a guest speaker at an area high school and the topic of discussion was interviewing. She asked all the reporters to put their tricks of the trade down and her results were so fantastic I thought I’d share here:
Before the interview:
•Take time to research the subject for your story if you’re unfamiliar.
•Jot down a few questions you’d like answered by the end of the interview.
•Grab at least two extra writing utensils.
•Check the meeting location and ensure you know exactly where it is before you go.
•Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You don’t want to keep your source waiting and this allows time to get lost or find a parking space.
•Have an attitude adjustment. Let go of whatever is happening in your personal life (good or bad) and put on your professional cap.
•Be prepared for other people’s emotions. You should be respectful of them, but not paralyzed by them.
When you get there:
•Don’t jump right into the questions. Introduce yourself and make some small talk.
•Never be afraid to reveal a little about yourself. Where you go to school, a sports team you like or some hobby. Give the source a reason to remember you’re human, too.
•Make eye contact.
•Avoid yes or no questions. You’re not proposing to the source, so a yes or no isn’t going to get the job done.
•Stop talking. Not filling the silence is one of the hardest, but arguably most important lessons to learn as a reporter.
•Ask hard questions, but make it clear you’re just doing your job. Most professionals respect that.
•If you don’t understand, ask. One of the worst mistakes a journalist can make is to leave without fully understanding the issue. If you couldn’t explain the topic to your mother use the other person’s expertise until you do.
•Know when it’s time to walk away. Sometimes people can be interesting, but not useful to the story. Politely move along. A looming deadline is always a valid reason to keep moving.
•Don’t try to write down every word said. Ideally you’re looking for “sound bytes.”
•Ask for contact information and save it in a file. You never know when you’ll need someone for a story again.
•Before you leave, ask the person if there’s anything they’d like to add. Interesting pieces of information come up this way all the time.
•Thank them for their time, but don’t make promises you can’t keep, i.e. what day the story will run because in this business, plans change in the blink of an eye.