Good stories start with good reporting. Whether you are just beginning or a seasoned veteran, your interviewing techniques as a journalist must keep up with a forever changing world.
Sites including MatadorNetwork and CCJ list some of the basic skills a journalist should develop. Other sites such as the Journalism.org have a collection of links containing tools related to many additional areas of journalism.
Here are six need-to-know basics I believe a Journalist must develop and habitualize:
1. Research. Before conducting an interview prior research is crucial not only in constructing questions but, for you to get a feel of how your story will possibly develop. The more informed you are on a subject improves the quality of your questions, which leads to a better the story.
2. Prepare more questions than needed. Composing a vast amount of questions allows you to cover all parts of the story. This will ensure most, if not all, questions your audience wants answered will be. In addition, some of your sources may not fully cooperate or comment on certain issues; it’s smart to have backup questions.
3. Be polite. Be on time and always introduce yourself and your purpose. Give your source time to answer. Consider your source’s feelings on the subject and what affect it may have had on their lives. For example, when dealing with a death you must show sympathy and patience, not an interrogative manner.
4. Listen. This may be difficult at some points, especially when taking notes. Listening and making eye contact shows respect towards your source. When they feel important, they will most likely become more open and share more detail. Listening can also generate more questions you may not have considered.
5. Double check. You should ALWAYS double check facts and quotes to ensure they are accurate. Nothing is worse than losing your credibility or providing your readers with false information.
6. Be prepared. This not only pertains to your prior research but your physical preparedness. You may come across a breaking news story at any time. A journalist should always carry:
- Pad of paper
- Voice recorder/digital camera
- Extra batteries
- Change of outfit (just in case)
In my opinion, the idea of a perfect interviewer does not exist, no matter how much experience they may have accumulated. But with continued practice, you will be on your way to writing effective news stories and providing your audience with the information they deserve.