Interviewing Essentials Day 4: The Final Master List

This evening was our Interviewing Essentials class’ last meeting, so we did the best thing I could think of to finish off such a bullet-speed class: we made a master list.

A master list that I now transcribe here:

  • Be yourself in interviews and be interested as a human being.
  • Don’t apologize for doing an interview — believe that your story has value and that you’re doing your job.
  • Be succinct and clear when asking for an interview.
  • Do two interviews (if possible): use the first to get background information, then take a few days to get your thoughts straight and come back for a second interview to dive deeper into the story/subject.
  • If not entirely interested in the subject, “act as if” you are, and you’ll eventually become interested.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask abstract “feelings” questions.
  • Watch people in action and moments to go beyond what a verbal interview can give you.
  • Be prepared but not predetermined.
  • Flattering and stupidity can actually be very helpful in getting a source to open up.
  • Explain the context of what you’re doing at the beginning of the interview.
  • Physical artifacts are a Godsend in getting a source to talk (I learned this in my interview at the Rock Bottom Comic Store).
  • You don’t always have to save the tough questions for last; sometimes it’s best to clear the air when both you and the source know a topic is going to be hard to talk about.
  • Slow down the interview.
  • Don’t ask compound-complex questions; keep phrasing simple.
  • Reflecting back to answers is a good thing! It slows down the interview and signals that you’re listening. Do this especially when interviewing sources in specialty fields.
  • Don’t put your words in someone’s mouth.
  • Remember that you advocate the truth of the story, not the source, but sometimes that’s the same thing (you advocate the story AND the source).
  • Be frank and offer context when approaching rough questions.
  • Know how to handle on-the-record and off-the-record policies and how to explain it clearly to your source so they understand the legal implications of talking to you.
  • Treat everyone with dignity.

So that’s it. That’s the master list of  what I’ve learned. I wish I could encapsulate every single story Jacqui Banaszynski told us and everything I learned through my interviews, but that would take an entire book.

Oh, look. A book written partially by Jacqui Banaszynski.
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