Interview tips

Mr. Hatten's five-star tips for conducting interviews and creating good news story ideas 


Photo from Vanderbilt University Reporter online

  • 1) Avoid interviewing friends.  Often this can ruin your credibility as a journalist and can be downright uncomfortable for all involved.
  • 2) Go straight to the top. When interviewing or deciding to set up interviews always, always remember to go to the top -- straight to the horse's mouth -- to get your information.  Interview the head coach of a sport, not an assistant coach (even if the assistant is a teacher and the head coach isn't in the building).  Interview the principal even when he's hard to get ahold of or seems very busy.
  • 3) Be specific.  When writing a story idea sheet, be very specific about who you will contact and/or how you find out your information.  The thought process of being specific helps create a strong plan for the story.
  • 4) Don't ever interview people in groups.  It is extremely difficult for a journalist to interview people in pairs or groups.  People have a tendency to finish each other's sentences and cause other friction that is useless to getting a story.  Separate each person and try not to interview people in front of others.
  • 5) You are in charge. The journalist runs the interview.  The journalist sets the tone.  The journalist is in charge.  The journalist is the adult of the situation.  Never forget this.  If something is wrong or not to your liking, change it.  Change it to your liking.
  • 6) Have questions ready.  Make sure you show up to the interview with questions in hand in case you lose your train of thought or have a moment of awkwardness.
  • 7) Be polite but firm
  • 8) Shake hands and introduce yourself.  These are called manners and show maturity. 
  • 9) Always check spellings: especially names. 
  • 10) Interview multiple sources.  You can't be objective or effective with less than three sources per story.