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How to conduct an interview: tips for youth journalists Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Ha Thi Lan Anh, Canada Jul 9, 2002
Citizen Journalism   Opinions


+ where you can record sounds, pictures, etc. without being disturbed and interrupted. It would be good to come and check the place prior the interview if you can.

6. How

- How am I going to conduct my interview? There are several ways on telephone, emails. But always try to organize a face-to face meeting. You will have a better inside scoop and better personal observations which will put the colour to your story.

Beginning an interview means finding answers for: What? Why? Who? When? Where? How? from your interviewees. But don’t rush! Take it step by step.

<>Introduce Yourself:

- Plan your introduction. Introduce who you are, what you are doing. Use simple words!

- Ask them if you can use your equipments (if you have). Some people don’t like recorders and video cams. Respect their choices! Explain the reason for recording.

- Get your pens and notepads ready.

<>Ice breaking :

- Don’t stress your interviewees. Don’t force them to answer or make them share their stories with you.

- You don’t have to start asking questions right away. Chit chat, icebreaking a bit! But be careful, some people do not like “blurring around”. Depend on different people, decide what you should do. Don’t be too strict with your words. It is not a Q and A session. It is a conversation! BUT don’t be too informal. The main point: make people feel comfortable, trust and talk to you.

<>Start your interview

1. Ask your questions but don’t stick to them: When things are “warmed up”, start off with your prepared questions, but you don’t have to stick to them all the time. Actually a lot of cool information pops up during the conversations that you want to investigate on. However, keep in mind the story map and major topics. Make the best use of the 5 W’S and H’ questions. Again questions should be short, easy to understand and develop.

2. Concentrate: you get two goals at same time: make the interviewee talk to you more and pick up new and interesting information that can pop up anytime during conversation.

3. Write down whatever you can while keeping your recorder running: it helps you to compile all the information later to choose what you need for your story. You might start your interview with a list of questions and topics. Amazingly, you can end up with more information than what you need and new ideas for new stories!

4. Use your sensory observations: sensory observation is a super tool for journalists! Use your ears, eyes, nose, etc. to observe the person and things related to that person. Write down your feelings about them, descriptions of what you observe. If you can feel them, know them then you will have passions to write down.

5. Find something NEW: keep your ears to new things, new perspectives and angles.

6. Feature Diversity: ask different opinions, perspectives, and viewpoints to reflect different sides of an issue or different thoughts on a person.

7. Make sure to let people speak out: if you write about a topic make sure the person who’s involved can speak out. For example: if you write about a youth then let his voice recorded, not his parents’ or adults’. Your story will have inside perspectives and importantly: informative, honest and inspiring. Don’t make people become just kind decorations for your show.

8. Show your respect: respect their privacy and make them feel they can trust you. Respect differences. You might interview people from different culture, religions which are strange to you. Don’t make them confused. Show respect.

9. Don’t be too clever: journalists often know beyond information they give out .You don’t have to say everything you know. Don’t try to be too clever and never set your perspectives on the interviewee’s.

10. Don’t get them stressed: get the interviewees pay less attention to your equipments like recorders, video cam, they may be stressed about them and get nervous. Don’t force them to answer your questions. If they say NO to your question, it means NO. Make them feel comfortable and safe with you.

11. be sensitive and be careful: don’t rush in making questions. Listen and look. Then decide what to do. Care about the interviewee’s feelings (through their body language, language, the way they behave...). Don’t do anything if you are not allowed to.

12. Clarify but do not disturb or interrupt: Don’t try to disturb and interrupt when people talking. Find ways to stop them naturally and clarify points of view you are not clear. If you suddenly interrupt and stop them, they may get nervous of continuing.

13. Face all situations: there are cases when your interviewees say some lie or show opinions totally different from yours. Don’t be defensive or aggressive. Don’t try to force them to pew out the truth or argue about their viewpoints. Remember you are interviewer. Learn to listen and face different situations.

14. Control your feelings: you will have different feelings, emotions in different situations: depressions and sadness when interviewing HIV girl, fiery when interviewing a racist. Be sure to control your feelings, be soft and strong at the right times and don’t forget the story in your back head.


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Ha Thi Lan Anh

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Useful and informative
Md. Akteruzzaman | Nov 28th, 2003
Thanks for good article. I wish to distribute this copy to my friends too. I also learned some tips!

Very useful
Damian Profeta | Mar 11th, 2004
Hey, your article is so clear and useful. I think it should be in Spanish too. I offer to translate it if you want.

Great Job!
Brian Kitchens | Apr 13th, 2004
I used to be a college journalist. One thing I tried a couple times that worked very well at the end of an in-depth interview was to ask the person what quote they would pick out of all the things that were said to include in the article. Both times I asked this the person actually stopped and thought hard for a few seconds and then picked a really good summary quote. I ended up using these quotes both times! Really samed me MUCH time.

so very useful great!
Everistus Olumese | May 31st, 2004
this is really great. I think am going to apply these methods in interviewing people for my magazine. thanks once again . you're best

Charity Fadun | Oct 23rd, 2004
great tips thanks!

Very concise.
Ed Smtih | Aug 9th, 2009
Hi, this was very concise information and badly needed. Thanks for a great job. Ed Smith conductknockoutbroadcastinterviews.com/blog.

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