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Interviewing. Obtaining information. Interviews are one of the main sources we have to obtain information, which is the raw material a journalist works with. Other sources – documents, observation. These other sources also often require interviews to produce a complete story. Preparation.

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Presentation Transcript
obtaining information
Obtaining information
  • Interviews are one of the main sources we have to obtain information, which is the raw material a journalist works with.
  • Other sources – documents, observation. These other sources also often require interviews to produce a complete story.
preparation
Preparation
  • Research the topic or person so you have some familiarity and background. Helps you ask better questions and shows respect for your source.
  • You won’t waste time asking about things that are widely known.
  • Easier to ask productive, interesting questions.
  • You won’t embarrass yourself by appearing ignorant.
preparation cont
Preparation, cont.
  • More likely to recognize when source says something interesting/newsworthy.
  • Less likely to have to go back and re-interview.
  • Some sources try to manipulate reporters or avoid difficult topics. Research can help a reporter avoid that.
where
Where?
  • In-person is best. Seeing you helps put source at ease, and you can notice things – gestures, etc.
  • More natural way of conversing.
  • In-person is even more important if the source doesn’t deal with the media very often. Can calm the source’s nerves.
  • Phone OK if you have to, or if it’s a source you commonly talk to on your beat.
  • Email interview only as a last, worst resort.
slide6
Who?
  • Best possible source for the story you are working on.
  • Looking for a source with knowledge, expertise and insight relevant to your story.
  • Actual person working on a project is better than a PR rep.
what to ask
What to ask
  • Interviewers should have a tentative central point in mind as they plan a story – the “what.”
  • Once you figure that out, and have done your background research, think about what you need to find out from the source.
what to ask cont
What to ask, cont.
  • Jot down a few questions. Don’t think of those as a script, though.
  • LISTEN to the answers and ask other questions accordingly. Your story may change.
  • Save difficult or potentially embarrassing questions for the end of the interview.
conducting the interview
Conducting the interview
  • Conversational approach.
  • Small talk at the start to put the source at ease.
  • LISTEN. Very important.
  • Sources don’t like to be badgered/pushed. Hostile source? Try to find out why.
conducting the interview cont
Conducting the interview, cont.
  • Keep interview on track.
  • Don’t ever deceive source about purpose of interview. It’s unethical.
  • At the end, ask if there’s anything they have to add or you may have forgotten to ask about.
playing dumb
Playing dumb
  • Of course, you’ve done your research.
  • But sometimes it helps to “play dumb.” Have the person explain something to you in their own words.
  • Can be helpful in explaining to readers.
  • Maybe you didn’t understand?
  • Can put interviewee at ease … also shows you are interested in what they have to say
taking notes
Taking notes
  • Figure out a way to write quickly. Abbreviate?
  • People speak faster than you can write – focus on getting down important direct quotes, jot down other facts.
  • Ask a “throwaway” question if you have to.
  • Two pens.
taking notes cont
Taking notes, cont.
  • Email interviews – generally discouraged. Doesn’t allow for candid answers, can lead source to carefully script response and leave it lifeless.
  • Phone interview – if you are going to type your notes while doing a phone interview, tell the source. Can sound strange on the phone.
taking notes one more
Taking notes, one more
  • Voice recorders – good to use, but can fail. Still take notes. Also, don’t over quote. Make sure source knows they are being recorded.
  • Review your notes immediately when you get back to your office, while interview is fresh on your mind.
how many sources
How many sources?
  • Depends on the story, deadline pressure, expertise of sources, controversy of topic, complexity of topic.
  • As many as it takes to prepare a complete report.
  • No matter how many sources you talk to, you must evaluate the sources – are they credible? Are they knowledgeable? Do they have an ax to grind?
direct quotes
Direct quotes
  • Use them when someone says something unique.
  • Or they say something in a unique way.
  • Important, significant information.
  • Can provide color and spice for a story.
  • Accuracy is quite important. If you aren’t sure you’ve got the quote down accurately, don’t use it.
listen
Listen
  • Did I mention listening? It’s very important when it comes to conducting interviews.
  • Pay attention. You aren’t sure what the source is going to say. What they say may change your approach/line of questioning.
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