Classroom 224, Episode 5 “Interviewing II”

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

The previous episode addressed interview techniques, especially for student journalists, and this episode is part two of that discussion. Here are four more practices that will help you with your interviews.

Number 1 – Getting people to agree to speak to you can be a challenge, so always introduce who you are and why you are contacting them. It’s an unfortunate reality that people are suspicious of journalists and our motives. So, be honest and straightforward. Here’s my suggested template – state your name and affiliation. Briefly tell them about the issue you’re covering. Let them know you are contacting them because they have experience or perspective you believe would be valuable. And, tell them about the specific aspect of the story you would like to discuss with them.

Number 2 – Acknowledge the controversy. One of the most challenging interviews to get is one in which the topic is controversial. Sources want to be treated fairly, and they don’t want their positions to be misrepresented to the public. Let them know you are aware of the controversy, and tell them honestly that you believe their perspective is important to a greater understanding of the issue. Assure them of fair treatment, and if they agree to speak with you, follow through on that assurance. It does not mean their positions should go unchallenged, but it does mean you should act professionally.

Number 3 – Respect your interviewee’s time. I mentioned in Episode Four that you should only ask questions that are relevant to your source’s expertise or experience. Avoid asking questions that are common knowledge or that can be easily answered through an online search. These people are taking time out of their day to work with you, and it’s time they will never get back. Show them you respect that by asking relevant, specific, and well-crafted questions.

Number 4 – In many cases, your sources do not owe you an interview, so humble yourself and don’t take it personally if someone does not respond. There are numerous reasons why someone may not follow up with you, and even if they are trying to avoid you, don’t get angry. It’s your responsibility to produce well-sourced reports, so contact several people to improve your chances of getting solid story material.

Educators and professionals, I invite you to share your time-tested interview techniques at the bottom of this episode’s page on ButlerCain – dot – com.

On the next episode, I’ll share some field recording ideas for students who want to produce content for radio and audio platforms.

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. Be well.

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