Four Basic Facts to an Interview

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


When conducting an interview every beginning journalist asks the question: What do I need to know? There are four basic facts that every journalist needs to know prior to their first actual interview.

1. Have the right tools ready for the interview.
The tools that every journalist needs for an interview are a notebook and a recorder. A lot of journalists will say that it is a debate to which tool you'll need, but having both is ideal. It is very easy to start your recorder, hold it, and then throughout the interview take notes. This way you will have a back up plan if one of the methods fails, and you can be sure to get the story your source is conveying.

2. Make sure you are asking the right questions.
Each interview is different from the next. You aren't going to ask Micheal Jordan the same questions as Professor Steffen when you are interviewing them about the upcoming March Madness. This may require a little research prior to the interview, but will allow you to prepare questions for your upcoming interview.

3. Take great notes.
When interviewing you aren't able to ask your source to slow down, quit talking, or to repeat their last quote. Therefore you will need to learn how to take quick notes. This may require some practice. My suggestion is to watch some clips on YouTube, but try to take notes on the clips why watching. After taking those notes re-watch the clip and see how well you did.

4. Choose the best quotes.
The quotes are the heart of the story. As a reporter you will try to take notes of as many quotes as possible, but when writing you will not want to include every quote from the interview. Compare the quotes from your interview to your lead, and then decide which are most relevant to your lead. Those quotes with the most relevance are what you should include in your story.

Interviews are much easier then beginning journalists think. Just relax and remember these four basic facts. Then you will produce a great interview, which in turn will produce a great story.

Photo Credit: scragz, Flickr

4 comments:

Alexa Smith March 1, 2011 at 9:19 PM  

No matter how far someone gets in their journalism career it is always good to remember the basics!

April Sigmund March 1, 2011 at 10:55 PM  

An interview is often where a journalist gathers the most important facts and quotes for a story, so being prepared and conducting a good interview is very important.

Katie Buchholz March 2, 2011 at 12:37 AM  

These are great tips! Something I struggle with is tip number 4. Choosing the right quotes. Sometimes I just get too many and don't know which ones to choose! Comparing the quotes with the lead is a great step and I will definitely use it in the future.

Kelsey Hagelberg March 2, 2011 at 9:04 AM  

I find these tips very helpful. Might I emphasize the importance of asking the right questions. Sometimes thoughts may come to mind during the interview that will spark the article to take a different twist. Don't hold back on these thoughts, but ask the questions. You never know how much better your article may turn out.

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