Take Aways – Experience in Looking for Interviews
June 11, 2014
1. When you’re looking for a potential interviewee, it is important that you do not get discouraged when people reject your attempts to interview them. It’s nothing personal against you, and it is important to remember that. Have tenacity when you’re interviewing because you will be rejected in this industry, and often. When you approach people, you need to sound like you are genuinely excited to speak with them. If you come across as bored or overly formal, the person will read off of your body language and voice tone and decline to be interviewed. Do not drop this excited composure once a person has agreed to be interviewed. The friendlier and more interested you seem, the more the person will likely open up to you, which can make for some amazing quotes.
2. Be prepared to deal with conflict of interest when you’re on the journalism field. Conflict of interest occurs when you know the person you are going to be interviewing. This will bias the interview in one of two ways: either you will go too easy on the interviewee because they are your friend or you will go to hard on them to try and prove that they are not a conflict of interest. Either way, this can ruin both your story and your relationship with the person you were interviewing, not to mention your reputation as a journalist. If you are ever given a story that requires you to interview a person with whom you have a conflict of interest, you should pass off the story to a colleague.
3. Many things can go wrong when you’re out in the field and you will often find yourself dealing with unforeseen problems. This is especially an issue when you’re interviewing because you do not want to compromise the interview in any way. That is why it is important for journalists to develop the ability to think on their feet so they can compromise when something doesn’t go according to plan. If the interview begins to take an unexpected turn, do not be afraid to go with it and rework your original story around the interview. One of the biggest problems you will encounter is technical issues. While it is always good to be prepared, sometimes mistakes are made. For example, if you are in the middle of an interview and your recorder stops working, remain calm. It is alright to go back and double check facts and re-ask some key questions. If for whatever reason you find yourself with a broken recorder and no handwritten notes, find a quiet spot immediately following the interview and write down everything you remember.
4. As Robert Washburn, a professor at Loyalist College, says, “Everyone is a natural born journalist”. By this he means that it is important to remember not to overthink interviews and stories you may write. One of the tips Washburn has given his first year journalism students is to write the first draft of your story without looking at your notes at all. This way, you will only write down what you remember, which is usually the most important aspects of the interview. You are a natural born storyteller and it is up to you to figure out the most important factors of the interview, so don’t second-guess your natural abilities.
5. When writing a story, the first step will always be to do preliminary research. At least read the last article published on the subject(s) you are writing about. Next, you will write your pitch. This is the angle from which you want your story to be told. Once you have your pitch, conduct further, more specific research based on your story’s angle. Gather all relevant information that you will need by going out into the field, talking to people and researching online. Once you have every big of information you need (background, specifics, interviews etc.), it is time for you to sit down and begin writing, but not before completing all of the above steps. The final thing you should do is publish your story.