4-5 The Interview Process
Interviews are set up in three basic phases:
Conduct Preinterview Research
The preinterview period can be broken into four phases.
When an article has been assigned, the reporter should be asking himself several questions. What is the topic? What is the purpose of the article? When is it due? What sources of information exist? Who should be interviewed?
Learn About the Source. When interviews are necessary and the reporter has identified the person he needs to interview, he should find out what he can about the source. Exactly what he will need to know about the subject depends on whether the interview is for a news story or a feature. Is the source an authority? What is his professional and scholastic background? Hobbies? Interests? What does he know about your subject and how does he feel about it?
Arrange the Interview. Once you have begun to get an understanding of the person you can telephone him to ask for an interview. Brady, of Writer's Digest, suggests that, when writers are asking for interviews they should put themselves in the interviewee's position.
What will the interview cost him? Who are you? For which publication do you write?.. How are interviewees treated in your publication? What will the interview do for him? How much time will he lose? Writers should avoid giving the lame reason, "My editor wants a story on the commissary project and I need to interview you." A better approach may be, "Mr. Carn, I understand that you are working on the new commissary project. I am writing an article to update the Fort Lost Tree community on the project. Could I come talk to you for about 30 minutes?" Notice in the second example the word interview was never mentioned. (Some people freezeup in 'interviews' but can discuss their topics well in conversation.) Mr. Carn's credibility was recognized (massaging his ego) and the length (time cost) of the interview was mentioned.
Be flexible. Try to fit the interview into his schedule. If you are working against a deadline, tactfully explain, and ask if there is a time he could fit you into his schedule.
Be prepared to interview early, late or during lunch.
Research Topic and Decide on the Angle. Once the interview has been arranged, the writer should start searching for the answers he needs in the article. The late Cornelius Ryan, author of "The Longest Day," wrote that an interview should never be conducted unless the writer knows at least 60 percent of the answers in advance.
The writer may check earlier news clippings on the subject for material which has already been published. This information may form the basis for follow-up questions. However, don't waste the source's time by asking questions to which you can easily find answers in biographical sheets or regulations.
Write Questions. The Internet and library references can acquaint the writer with the current issues on the topic. Supplied with his news clippings and library research the writer can begin forming his questions. He will know the answers to some questions but the reporter may want to get the interviewee's comments and viewpoints.
Writers understand that for an article to be credible, facts and opinion must be attributed. Indisputable, publicly known facts can be used without attribution. However, the new journalist should strive toward letting the interviewee and reference sources be the sources of attribution. The writer can never use himself as the source of attribution in the news or feature story.
It's a good idea to avoid putting words into the interviewee's mouth. Questions which begin with or end with comments such as: "Don't you think ...." or "Wouldn't you say ...." generally indicate a thought the writer wants to attribute to the source. Such questions indicate to your source that you have already written the article and just want to attribute it to him. It also puts the interviewee in a "yes' or 'no' answering mood. This makes getting anecdotes and the source's personality or additional thoughts next to impossible.
An easy way to avoid "yes" or 'no' answers is to write your questions phased in the five Ws and H format. For example: "What do you think about ...." or "Why is this project so important?" These questions put the source in a reflective, explanatory mood.
Artful notetaking enables the writer to jot down the main points and to also note the color or atmosphere of the interview. The writer can note the source's tone of voice, facial expressions, mannerisms, movements, physical appearance, clothing and many other things that will help him point a vivid word picture of the subject.
|David L. Heiserman, Editor||
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Revised: June 06, 2015