Art of the Interview

People smoking marijuana in Washington Square Park

Some people want to talk and others don’t. You must try your best to get people to talk to you and tell you what you want to know.

All interviews require the same basic skills. You need to prepare. You want to research and find out everything you can about the subject before you ask a question.

Breaking News Challenge

NYFD responds to a fire in Manhattan on April 21, 2021

If you head to a breaking news story, you want to find out whatever facts are available before you get there. When you arrive at the scene of the story, you want to quickly assess the situation and decide who can give you the best information.

You want to pause for a minute or two to think about what you learned and decide who you need to interview.

NYFD at the scene of a fire on April 19, 2021

Then you want to calmly approach the person, introduce yourself and try to make a human connection. That will help you talk to the interview subject and get the best answers.

  1. Remember to ask open-ended questions instead of questions that give you a yes or no answer.
  2. Listen to the answers. Look into the interview subjects’ eyes and pay attention to the cues they give you.
  3. Ask follow-up questions based on their answers.
  4. Remember to be a fellow human being instead of a reporter on a mission.
President Biden discusses his 100 days in office interview with Craig Melvin on MSNBC.

Sit-down Interviews

In a sit-down interview preparation is key. You want to make sure that you know everything about your subject. Celebrities, politicians and athletes will tell you what they want to tell you. So you must think about what you and your readers, viewers or listeners want to know. Look for the unusual, something others haven’t covered before.

Interview Technique

Whether you interview someone in person, via video chat, or phone, the principles for a good interview remain the same.

  1. Prepare before your interview. Make sure you know as much about the topic and your interview subject as possible.
  2. Use your social skills when you begin the interview. Be friendly without being fawning especially if it’s a celebrity. You want to be on relatively equal footing with your interviewee whether it’s a child, a neighbor, a celebrity, or the president.
  3. Be nice even if you are about to ask tough questions. Be polite.
  4. Often interview subjects feed off of your energy. Make sure that you are energetic without being overbearing.
  5. Try not to read from a list of questions.
  6. Get right to it. Make sure you have the correct spelling and pronunciation of the person’s name in advance.
  7. Don’t waste their time with trivial details.
  8. Make eye contact.
  9. Ask your question and listen to the answer. Listening is really important. The interview subject may say something that needs an immediate followup. She may have given you the answer for the tenth question you have in mind but haven’t asked yet.
  10. You may have to interrupt if the person goes on and on and doesn’t answer the question. Keep the interview in your control. Be firm. But stay pleasant.
  11. Quit when you understand that the interview subject has answered your questions and really has nothing else that is relevant to say.