bomb question, and at other times reporters discoverthe bomb accidentally. Poise means putting thesubject at ease, following up on leads and keeping coolwhen the subject gets recalcitrant.
Most successful interviewers do not take the hard-line style of questioning typical of news programssuch as 60 Minutes. In fact, for many years the 60Minutes reporters would ask the questions and filmanswers in the usual manner, but then when theinterview was over they would turn the camera on thereporter who would ask the questions to the camera ina much more agressive style than in the orginalinterview. It made for good drama, an importantconsideration in electronic media. The truth is thatcommunication is only possible when people feel freeto expresss their feelings and beliefs regardless ofwhether the other person agrees. How can you dothis?1.Listen in a non-judgmental way. Paraphrasethe respondent’s comments to make sure youunderstand what is being said.2.Be involved in the interview. Don’t neglectsocial amenities, and remember to follow uppromising leads.3.Be aware of the possibility of personal changeas a result of what you learn.
Tips from experienced interviewers
If possible, interview people in their own environment.
If the person is a painter,interview him in the studio, and if the personise a printer, interview her in the print shop.The respondent will usually feel at home in afamiliar place and respond more openly toyour questions. Your respondent will not bedistracted by a new setting. The publicationsoffice may be a familiar place to the inter-viewer, but to those who are unfamiliar withit, it is noisy and distracting. Another benefitto the interviewer is the chance to soak updescriptive detail and interactions betweenthe respondent and the people with whom heor she works.
Be careful to phrase your questions in such a manner that you avoid gettting a “yes” or a “no” answer.
“Brandy, you were the PromCommittee Chair this year, and from allaccounts, it was the best Prom in years. Theband, the decorations and the food wereincredible. Can you tell us the secret to yoursuccess?” “No.” Enough said.
Be sure you are listening.
Don’t be so intenton the next question that you don’t listen towhat the respondent is saying. Don’t worryabout the next question until you run out offollow-up questions for the answers yourrespondent has given you.
Your notes should reflect the words and phrases of the respondent, not your own.
Interviewing is like mining for diamonds.
Youare not sure where the digging will lead you,but you’ll know a diamond when you see one.At this point, you have a diamond in therough, and with a little cutting and polishing,you’ll have a gem of a story on your hands.
Most interview questions are based on what is already known, yet the purpose of an inter- view is to uncover new information.
With thatin mind, a good reporter pounces on newinformation, or that which clarifies or explainspreviously reported information. Even thoughyou go into an interview with a definitepurpose, be prepared for the unexpected —and be prepared to pursue it.
When you have completed the interview, take a moment to review your notes and make sure you have all the answers you came for.
A greatway to conclude an interview is to ask therespondent if it would be okay to call them ifyou have any questions. It eases therespondent’s fears that you will rush intoprint with inaccurate information. Back at thenewsroom, of course, be sure to contact yoursource should you have any questions aboutwhat they meant or said. This gives you andyour newspaper credibility the next time youneed to talk with that source again. Buildingbridges of communication between the news-paper and the community is what it is allabout. When a big story comes along, you willhave sources who trust you who are willing tohelp you out.
Types of questions
Getting useable information from a respondentdepends greatly upon asking the right type of ques-tions. In his book
Ken Metzleridentifies and describes the types of questions andstrategies interviewers might use. They are brieflydealt with here.
A comment or inquiry about apersonal effect; talk of current events or weather; talk