Interviewing: A necessary skill for any reporter

By: Eric Moeller 

 Because I believe it is one of the most important aspects of journalism and an area in which I could use improvement, I chose to take the Poynter Institute’s News-U course on the subject of interviewing.

I found the course very engaging and full of useful information. In the course, a mock interview with a fictional city councilman provides a platform for instructor Chip Scanlan to give students tips on performing interviews and getting the most useful answers.

One of the main points made in the course is that the best interviews are those conducted in an informal, conversational tone that encourages the free flow of information.

Many times, interviews conducted by young reporters tend to resemble interrogations more than conversations, which leads to subjects becoming reluctant about giving information.

While maintaining a spontaneous, conversational setting is an important aspect of any interview, John Brady, author of The Craft of Interviewing, also believes a reporter should approach an interview like a chess match. Brady believes that — like moves in a game of chess — every question in an interview should serve a greater purpose.

The course also points out the importance of using open-ended questions that encourage long, thought-out responses as opposed to the simple yes or no questions that lead to one-word answers.

The advice that I feel applies the most to me concerns allowing the interviewee to answer questions completely. Many times, I waste too much time asking long, leading questions that end up restricting the possible responses a subject can give. This leads to short disappointing quotes that often require a great deal of set-up instead of the engaging quotes that come when a subject is given time to think of their own way of responding to a question.

Ultimately, I think the Poynter Institute’s News-U course on interviewing has given me some valuable tips on one of the most important aspects of journalism. 

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One Response to “Interviewing: A necessary skill for any reporter”

  1. Edward W. Smith Says:

    Thanks for letting me know about the Poynter Institute course, that sounds great. I am a student of the interview process and have started a blog that is aimed at people doing interviews in broadcast media. I invite anyone to visit it at http://conductknockoutbroadcastinterviews.com/blog/ Thanks and keep up the good work, Ed Smith

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