How to Conduct an Interview

One of the most important parts of reporting is conducting interviews. Many reporters dislike interviewing others; it can be nerve-wracking for them to talk to someone they don’t know and ask them questions, especially if they are personal. Despite this, email interviews don’t suffice, and having conversations with people is the best way to get a good story. Here are a few tips on how to go about requesting an interview, general questions to ask when interviewing, and how to have confidence when talking to your interviewee.

  1. Requesting an interview

Research your topic and figure out the best people to interview for your story. Getting multiple interviews to represent different sides of a story is the best approach in order to remain objective in your retelling of an event. Look for several forms of contact information. I usually start by sending the person an email, but if they don’t respond within a reasonable amount of time, (within 24 to 48 hours), I look for alternative emails or phone numbers. Ask them to meet up in person, or host a virtual or telephone interview. 

  1. Preparing for the interview?

Make sure to research your interviewee before talking to them. You should know their full name, job title, and some important information about them, specifically in regards to what makes them relevant for your story. Be sure to verify the spelling of their name and their job title with them, rather than asking “What’s your job title?” 

Additionally, you must ask your interviewee if you can record the interview. This is essential for getting exact quotes. You cannot record an interview without permission from your interviewee.

You should already know background info on what they are discussing, so ask questions on ideas you do not know much about or those you want a different perspective on. The questions themselves should be objective; you do not want to sway the interviewee’s answer due to the way you phrase the question. Keep your questions open-ended and straightforward. 

During the interview, follow-up questions may pop up in your head. Ask these questions; it will make it feel more like a conversation. I personally like to end each interview by asking the interviewee if they have any information they’d like to share that I didn’t ask them about. This is a good way to ensure you gain as much insight as possible.

  1. Gaining confidence

Talking to a new person can be scary, especially when you are asking them questions. Write out your questions beforehand as a reference, if possible. Bring a notebook or your laptop to take notes, even if they agree to be recorded. Recordings are easy to lose, and you do not want to be stuck with a lack of information because you can’t remember what they said. This can also release some tension, since you will be busy taking notes, rather than staring at them the whole time. An interview will never be perfect, but as you interview more people, you will feel yourself becoming more comfortable with the process.

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