Classroom 224, Episode 4 “Interviewing I”

Welcome to the fourth episode of Classroom 224. My name is Butler Cain, and I’m your host and producer.

This episode focuses on interviews, and it includes advice I’ve been giving student journalists for years. For the sake of brevity, I’ll give you four ideas. If you practice these, you’ll be better interviewers, you’ll produce better stories, and you’ll become better professionals.

Number 1 – Research the topic. This is essential. Through research, you will learn how other journalists have covered the story and might find a different angle. You’ll discover diverse perspectives. And, you’ll get a better sense of the topic. All of this will help you craft better questions. If your questions are not good, then your story will not be good.

Number 2 – Be deliberate about whom you seek to interview. Whatever the topic may be, search for people who have expertise or experience with it. Don’t simply try to find one or two random people who can give you their opinion about something. Remember, you’re trying to provide your audience with relevant information. Seek people who can contribute to a better understanding of the issue.

Number 3 – Prepare five questions. That’s it. Students who have 10 or 15 questions clearly have not done enough research to narrow down their list. Preparing five questions also forces you ahead of time to have a strong idea about your story’s focus. Write or print the questions and refer to them during the interview. That allows you to pay attention to what your interviewee is saying, and that could change your story’s direction.

Number 4 – Get it right. Screwing up direct quotes is inexcusable, and it is unprofessional. Do everything you can possibly do to quote your interviewees correctly. Don’t rely on your memory. Instead, ask permission to record the interview, and specifically tell them you would like to record so you can quote them correctly in the final story. If your interviewee says something you don’t understand, get clarification. Ask if you can follow up later in case you need some more information or explanation. All of these are professional practices, and they indicate to your source that you care about accuracy.

This is a good start, but I have more than four ideas to share about interviews, so the next edition of Classroom 224 will continue with this topic. In the meantime, I invite you to share an interview technique that has worked well for you. Leave it in the Reader Feedback section at the bottom of this episode’s page on ButlerCain – dot – com.

The music you hear on this podcast was produced by Kipp Cain and is used with his permission.

You’ve been listening to Classroom 224, I’m Butler Cain. Take care.

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