Interviewing Techniques For The Journalist

News & SocietyNews

  • Author Marie Telfor
  • Published February 9, 2011
  • Word count 605

At some point in your career you will have to interview either a professional person, local resident, or a celebrity. Your interviewing techniques play an important part of getting the information you need to build a story. The harsh reality is once people know you are a journalist they can be very sceptical of you. As we are sometimes seen as busybodies who can’t mind their own business or as liars.

Before you get straight to the interview it is important to build a rapport with the person you are interviewing you need to get them to trust you, and this must be genuine as people can tell when you’re faking.

One of the ways to build a rapport is to get to know the person you are interviewing. I was once assigned to go and interview a manager at a local day care centre for the elderly. This centre was closing down due to lack of funding. Before I got straight down to my questions I would get to know her as a person first. I’d ask her questions like ‘how was she doing,’ ‘what was she doing before this job’, I even ended up knowing what her favourite pastime was.

Because of this rapport building I was able to get a lot more answers out of her concerning the day centre, as she was comfortable in talking to me and I ended up with a good story. When building a rapport please be mindful that you must maintain a professional attitude and to use your discretion. There are many different types of personalities that you will come across in your journalism career and you will have to adapt to each individual accordingly.

After the rapport building stage comes the questioning and there are two types of question methods opened and closed. Opened questions are what’s, how’s, why’s, and where’s this will give you a more elaborate answer. Closed questions begin with ‘are you’, ‘is it true’, or ‘do you have’ these questions will give you less of an elaborate answer and you want to avoid asking them. However if you do begin with a closed question you can always get the interviewee to expand on them for example:-

Journalist: - "Are you bored today?"

Interviewee: - "No,"

Journalist: - "Can you explain why you’re not bored"

The Journalist began with a closed question but ended up with an open question to get a more detailed answer.

As well as the questioning it is important to remember that you have to control the interview. If the interviewee starts talking about something else bring them back to you the topic.

Journalist: - "Why is red your favourite colour?"

Interviewee: - "Because it a fiery colour and blue is also another nice colour I like it very much."

Journalist: - "Why else is red your favourite colour,"

Notice the Journalist did not entertain what the interviewee said about the blue colour in fact it was dismissed and the attention was brought back onto the red. Only if the answer is relevant to your story should you allow the interviewee to continue to another topic.

One final thing remain confident and enjoy the interview. Don’t see it as a chore you can meet some very interesting people along the way. Also meeting people is a great way to build contacts they may know someone you might want to get in touch with for your next story who knows. At the end of the day they’re the ones that you need to help you build your story.

Marie Telfor is the Editor-in-Chief of on line lifestyle magazine Keeping It Real. The magazine where the subscribers become the 'Journalist'

website:- or email Marie at

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