At the CIJ Summer School this year, Melanie McFadyean gave tricks and tips for successful interviewing. We’ve summarised the top six tips below…
1. Do extensive background research…
…so unnecessary questions are not asked. These waste time and not knowing the background looks unprofessional to the interviewee.
Knowing key information also helps to back up your question, especially when interviewing ‘difficult’ people like politicians.
2. Always try to conduct interviews face to face
Avoid telephone calls and emails as much as possible. Interviewing in person allows you to register the sights, smells and sounds which can add a lot more colour to news stories.
3. Listening is very important when interviewing…
…so try not to interrupt the interviewee. Do not feel that you have to fill in silences. The interviewee may be thinking about their next sentence. You want the interviewee to speak more than yourself.
4. Always record the interview
Ask the interviewee for permission first and emphasise that it is for both your benefits.
Recording avoids mis-quoting and ensures you get your facts right. You also won’t miss any vital information off your notes.
5. Plan your questions in advance…
…so you are as prepared as possible. Start with light and ‘easy’ questions to build up to the more difficult and awkward questions. You want the interviewee to be put at ease first as they are then more likely to be truthful, open and honest.
To add to this, keep questions short and sharp at no longer than 10-15 seconds.
6. Never betray a source
If the interviewee wants their identity kept hidden, honour this. The same goes for if they say something ‘off the record’. Stay true to your interviewee. You do not want to lose them as a contact.
However, be aware that this can be abused, so try to confirm information acquired this way from other sources, which can then be attributed.