How to Interview Someone for a Story

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Knowing proper interviewing techniques can mean the difference between a good and great story. Interviews are not just about questions and answers, but about understanding and thoughtfully listening to your subject. Follow these steps to conduct a great interview.

  • Decide what type of interview you'd like to do. The most common are face-to-face and phone interviews. Face to face gives you an opportunity to look at the person and see the look on their face when they're telling their stories. A phone interview gives the person a little more anonymity and might provide an easier outlet for someone to open up.

  • Set up a time or place to meet with your subject. If you are meeting face to face, meet in a place that is comfortable to the subject.

  • Bring a recorder and a notebook and pen. Turn the recorder on during the interview, but write down in the notebook key things that were said. You can also write down the time certain things were said by watching the timer on your recorder.

  • Start a conversation, not an interview. Have a conversation with your subject because you want them to be comfortable with what they're talking about. The more comfortable your subject is, the better the interview will be.

  • Listen. Let your subject talk. Don't be so quick to interject with more questions. Wait for a definitive pause before asking your next question.

  • Let the conversation steer your line of questioning. It's good to go into the interview with an idea of what you want to ask, but don't be afraid to ask your questions in response to what your subject has said.

  • Let the interview go as long as it needs to. Don't limit your time or your subject's chance to tell his story. This will ensure the most complete interview possible. After he is finished, thank them for their time.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask the subject for a cell number after the interview in case you have questions after reviewing your tape. Also, leave your number with your subject.
  • Never show your subject the story ahead of time no matter how many times she asks. Ask her to wait until it reaches print.

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