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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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