Course Module: 
MA Reporting

Without a successful interview you won't have a successful story. You will have failed to get the most powerful quote or a critical piece of information.. You're entitled to ask questions but the intervieweee is also entitled to refuse to answer.

So help them. Ensure they know from the outset why you want to interview them and where the subsequent article or film will be published.

Be prepared. Here’s how.

1,do the prep. Find out as much as you can about the person and the subject.

2, draft questions in advance. But be prepared to go off at tangents. Interviews don’t follow a rigid route.

3, put your interviewee at their ease. Make it a conversation rather than a grilling. Let them do the talking. The interview is about them, not you.

4, Writing copy from notes is so much faster than from a recording. Note your questions as well as the answers. Record the interview for back up and to prove they actually said it!

5, check the basics.  Names, job titles, ages, dates must all be right. Check out the material you’ve pulled from the internet or the files as the interview progresses. It may be wrong.

6, ask straightforward questions and use straightforward language.  Let the story, the emotion and colour come from the interviewee.

7, ask one question at a time. Both you and your subject will get confused if you ask multiple questions – and it gives the interviewee the chance to duck one of them.

8, phrase your question to avoid one word answers. Ask “was it exciting?” and the answer will be yes or no. Ask “how did it feel?” and the answer should be more interesting.

9, seek clarification if there’s something you don’t understand. It may be your only chance to find out.

10, Keep the tough questions towards the end to allow time to gain the interviewee’s trust, give them time to relax and you time to gather lots of useful information.

And finally, don’t be afraid of silence. The interviewee may need time to think about the answer - or they may by summoning the courage to reply with breath-taking frankness. 


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