"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible;
to be credible we must be truthful." - Edward R Murrow

Interview DOs and DON'Ts explained by Nikky Raney

After viewing the video of Journalism 101: Interview DOs and DON'Ts there may be some who are looking for further explanation. This is the blog post where the dos and don'ts are better explained. Please understand these are all relating to interviews for a print or web story. Interviews for broadcast are similar, but there are more restrictions.

1) Do not ask yes or no questions.

Don't ask questions that will only result in one word answers. Granted there are some instances where there needs to be background information obtained that may only require a one word answer, but it is always preferable that the questions asked require a longer answer. The purpose of an interview is to obtain quotes for the article. In addition to quotes any facts or statements included within the article can be attributed to the source in instances where the source has given information.

2) Don't ask misleading questions.

Misleading questions are when the question is looking for a specific answer that could possibly make the source say something negative or something that could come off as negative. An example would be when interviewing someone who is pro-abortion and asking, "What is the joy of an abortion like for one who has one?" The person is coming off saying that an abortion is a joyous experience, or asking a presidential candidate, "What about his plan is most unnecessary?" The quotes given can be misconstrued and the person can come off looking bad.

3) Don't rely on a voice recorder.

Yes, it's good to have a voice recorder to play back and make sure the quotes were correct. It also saves time on fact checking so instead of needing to call up the person and go over the quotes - the voice recorder is proof. Taking notes is necessary to write down the key points and quickly jot down quotes. The recording can be fast forwarded to the specific part so that the quote can be accurate. Without taking notes one would need to sit and listen to the entire recording again and write things down - where as taking notes saves from that hassle. It also shows the person that they are actually being listened to and that specific details are being noted.

4) Don't ask irrelevant questions.

This may seem obvious, but many reporters do this. Interviewing a source for an article is just that - interviewing for the article. Taking the time out of the day to make time for an interview with a reporter is something that should be appreciated. Do not waste the person's time rambling or asking things that aren't of any relation to the article. Getting some background information on the person is one thing, but asking personal questions that have no relation to the article is just a waste of time.

5) Don't interrupt.

So sometimes there are questions that need to be asked and limited time to ask them, but even when the source goes off on a tangent talking about things that have no relevance to the article and could not be used as quotes for the article do not interrupt. Interrupting is rude and when someone is taking time out of the day to squeeze in an interview respect is necessary. Especially when a time comes in the future when the source will need to be contacted again. Of course keep some questions prepared, but make sure to have follow up questions in your mind while the person is speaking. Never interrupt, because the irrelevant rambling could sometimes lead to a better quote than could be acquired from any question asked. A subject that was not thought of before could be touched upon, and there's also a lot of information that could be obtained.

6) Ending the interview by asking for additional information.

Make sure the source is given the opportunity to add any additional information that he or she finds important. There may be some things that he or she wanted to discuss, but the questions asked were never directed toward the topic. Asking at the end of the interview shows caring and gives the source a chance to open up freely and talk about things that may not have been covered during the interview. This is where the best quotes will come from.

7) Ask questions that only that person can answer.

Broad questions that could be answered by anyone aren't worth it. Ask questions that are personal and specific to the source. Ask questions that could not be answered by anyone other than that source.

That's all for now - there are more things to touch on, but the most important are there. More explanation will be posted within future blog posts.

"When I interview people, and they give me an immediate answer, they're often not thinking. So I'm silent. I wait. Because they think they have to keep answering. And it's the second train of thought that's the better answer." -- Robin Leach

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