The Art Of Conducting An Interview

Ask someone to describe an interview. Likely, a forty-year-old or older person will describe the practice of a television or a newspaper news reporter. A person younger than forty more likely will describe the practice of video producers, audio (podcast) producers, bloggers, and writers on social media. The practice of conducting an interview remains similar, regardless of the medium.

The host arranges an interview for a purpose. Presenting the truth, should be the goal of the host, be it a news reporter or someone else who hosts an interview. A news reporter must investigate the topic in order to determine a story as newsworthy. Of course, truth rarely presents in a pure state. The morality of any two people will vary. Personal opinion built upon differing morality will produce variance in the truth about a topic. Variance presents opportunity to a news reporter, for he or she can build a stage on which sources with opposing views can be interviewed. The reporter must not take a side. Instead, he or she presents each view of the truth for the viewing audience (the rest of us) to consider. Then, each viewer decides which source spoke truth to him or her.

So, how does a news reporter do this? While researching the story, the news reporter identifies sources who have and will share their differing strong opinion. Everything else that happens applies to video producers, audio producers, bloggers, and writers as well as to news reporters. Today, any Smartphone owner, who has no education about how to conduct a news interview, can attempt to do one, post it, and some number of people will view it as readily as they would a television newscast.

The interviewer (reporter or anyone with a Smartphone) should frame the interview by saying opening remarks independent of sources. The interviewer should communicate no bias to the audience. As soon as he or she says, “I think,” the interviewer has introduced bias. Always, the audience must hear, “watch and listen, then you decide.” Ideally, the interviewer has discussed with each source what he or she wants to do, explained and gotten agreement about the dialogue, and gotten permission to air the final product, usually a five-minute video or audio interview. Independent of the sources, the interviewer prepares questions (easy ones to start, then focused questions to drill down to truth). These questions should encourage talk, not yes or no answers. After the source talks, provides his or her answer, the interviewer might followup by asking, “What else?”

This sounds easy, but suppose that during the interview a low flying jet roars overhead to drown out the audio, or a flying bird poops on the blouse of a source, it begins to rain, a passerby unexpectedly interrupts the interview, or the wind blows so loudly that the microphone picks up a roaring sound? Unexpected visual and audio intrusions that get recorded become part of the interview. If the interviewer has not mitigated them through preparation, he or she must include and explain them to the audience, edit them out, or a new interview must be conducted.

A source might become agitated and speak harshly, talk way too long, get off of subject, or become distracted. A source may freeze up and forget his or her name. The interviewer must be the calming influence, the one to get the source to lighten up, the encourager, and the task completer. The interviewer must stay in control, and if he or she cannot, then by shooting extra footage (known as B-roll), he or she might edit out the distractions and still produce a viable interview product. After each source has said the truth that he or she believes about the subject, the interviewer should end the interview by thanking the sources, and then sign off (end the video or audio).

Before airing the interview online or on TV and before writing the final copy for a newspaper, magazine or other written publication, the interviewer should take great care to edit the product for concision, clarity, genuineness, active voice, proper grammar and correct spelling. A well-presented interview will enhance the interviewer’s reputation. A poor execution of an interview might haunt an interviewer’s reputation beyond a lifetime. #Tag1writer


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