November 23, 2014

How to Interview Sources Like a Pro Journalist

First-hand experiences and expert voices add authority to your writing.

Become an interview expert to take your freelance writing career to the next level.

As a health care journalist, I tend to think of myself as a current events broker, rather than just a news writer. Think about it – journalists research and investigate important events and decide which ones have enough human interest and other qualities to develop into actual news stories. Finally, the journalist shares the final story with his or her readers.

The interview represents journalists’ most important resource when selecting and developing news stories. Expert insight and firsthand descriptions of events associated with the story bring authority and relevance to the piece. As a freelance writer, you can take your career to the next level by learning proper interviewing basics.

I interviewed three experts when developing a story on the topic of teen social media addiction for Balanced Living Magazine. Certainly, the story could stand alone, using the in-depth research I conduct for all of my medical articles, but including the expert voices brought it to the next level of credibility.

8 Tips to Help You Interview Effectively

  1. If you’ve got more than one or two simple questions to ask, schedule an appointment for the interview and let the source or his representative know what types of questions you’ll ask.
  2. Depending on the source’s physical location, you may conduct a phone interview, or physically visit the person. Regardless of the type of interview, you’ll want to thoroughly prepare yourself in advance. Research the topic well. This leads to good questions and your source will have added confidence in your ability.
  3. Choose the right type of interview. Journalists use in-person, phone, video chat, and email platforms for interviews, but the good ones choose the platform based upon the nature of the story itself, the depth of the interview, and what platform the source agrees to grant the interview.
  4. Use your prepared interview questions as a guideline only. If you did your research well and prepared relevant, meaningful questions, these will work great to get the conversation going. But don’t limit yourself to these pre-prepared conversation starters. Frequently, you’ll glean your best information from the source’s answers to follow-up questions.
  5. Even if you record the interview (always with the express permission of the interviewee), always take notes as well. You can jot down abbreviated notes and fill in the gaps and tidy them up directly after the interview ends.
  6. If interviewing in person or over the phone, take notes about the setting, gestures, and actions (all for in-person meetings) and tone/attitude (for phone and in-person meetings) of the source during the interview.
  7. Review your notes as quickly as possible after the interview. At this time, begin to shape your story by choosing the best quotes and most compelling details.
  8. Ask your source if you may phone him (or her) before the final story goes to publication to verify the accuracy of quotes and facts, pertaining to him.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like any advice or help in crafting interview questions and determining the best type of interview to use for particular sources. In true Freelance Writing Dreams form, I offer these mentoring services free of charge.

 

Photo credit: Subject – Connor Mackenzie, Photographer – Duane Gluck

About Samantha Gluck

Not only am I the chief editor of this multi-author online magazine, I'm a content creator and social media marketing strategist with a background in journalism, finance, & healthcare. I began my content marketing agency, All Media Freelance, LLC, in 2010 and lead a well-rounded, talented team of multi-channel content strategists and niche writers. I've developed and managed print and digital content projects for health care, fitness, financial services, mental health, non-profit, and automotive publishers, as well as for biotechnology brands.

Comments

  1. Great article Samantha. Always enjoy reading your posts. You always get right to the point, and have a ton of useful information. Keep up the good work!!!

  2. Excellent article for the n00b reporter! Thanks for the tips Samantha, if it weren’t for you, sometimes I’d be lost in a sea of ink and swill.
    Aaron N. recently posted..Barbara Bush to be Keynote Speaker at Literary Council of Tyler LuncheonMy Profile

  3. Really valuable information here! It’s so true you can get a lot more from a live or phone interview – but they take much more time. Especially if you have to drive a distance for a live interview, seems like it’s only worth it if you are getting paid pretty decently. That said, I agree that body language can say so much more than you’d ever get via phone or email.

    Shital
    Shital Bhalani recently posted..MPSC Lecturer Exam Admit Card 2013 at http://www.mpsc.gov.inMy Profile

    • Hi Shital,

      Thanks so much for sharing your (spot on) thoughts! I agree with you and definitely like to conduct my interviews face-to-face when possible. But, alas, sometimes it just isn’t. Most of my sources and clients aren’t even in Texas. So when I need to interview a source who is too far away for travel, I strongly suggest to them that we meet via Skype or Google Hangout. It’s still not as good as in-person, but it’s WAY better than phone or email in my opinion. You can see all the body language and the subtle things that have no words…

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