Why using a voice recorder can better improve your interview?
Around the world, journalists pick up their phones or venture out into the field every day to gather information from sources. They engage with people, whether strangers or familiar. They rely on notebooks and writing instruments or some form of recording device. Then, they perform two simple tasks: ask questions and listen to the answers. And the interview begins.
If you ask a group of journalists to investigate how they learned to conduct effective interviews, most will tell you that no one ever explicitly taught them. The art of interviewing is more a nuanced skill perfected through trial and error than following an operating manual, and it requires an attitude of learning; this is true in the sense of perfecting the skill itself and understanding the source.
In his TED talk, "The Art of the Interview," cultural historian Marc Pachter says, "The most important job of the interviewer is to make the interviewee feel that there is an important story to tell. The interviewer should make the interviewee feel that he/she is sharing something different from what the public knows".
Sources should feel they can talk freely, prompted by well-researched, insightful and open-ended questions. The energy generated between the interviewer and the interviewee is important and can facilitate substantive dialogue.
To measure your interview dynamics, using a tape recorder is an effective means of observing your style and mastering your reporting skills. It makes sense to transcribe questions and answers; are you asking more questions that stop the conversation than that start it? Are you interrupting the other person just as they are starting to speak? Sound like a sympathetic, engaging person, or an aggressive interrogator?
To be the best reporter you can be, study yourself and let your mistakes and areas of growth guide you to enlightening conversations and richer stories.
4 tips for your interview
Getting in front of strangers, or in front of people who are not used to being interviewed, and asking questions can be a challenge. How do you get people - the quiet cop, the jargon-laden expert, the interview-shy or nervous layperson - to give you substantive answers? How do you use quotes effectively in your writing?
#1 Do homework
There are many different kinds of journalism: investigations, commentaries, long-form articles, columns, obituaries. While they each require different styles and approaches, they all have a common goal: to distill and package information in a digestible way that readers can easily draw from.
To make this happen, journalists need to do some preliminary work in the research phase. Master interviewer Barbara Walters never cuts corners when it comes to research." The professional journalist says, "I do a lot of homework, and I know more about the person than he or she knows about themselves.
Searching on Google and scribbling down a few questions in your notebook 15 minutes before the interview is not advisable. Some level of immersion in your topic or subject matter is necessary. Reading and organizing documents, contacts and videos in an organized and searchable manner will help you craft informed questions and give you the confidence to lead the conversation with purpose.
Assume that this view requires journalists to think through the implications of each question. While preparing well-researched questions requires a high initial time commitment, the fruits of your labor will be clearly visible during the interview phase when you have plenty of citations to shape your article.
#2 Open your eyes
A good journalist listens. A good journalist listens and observes with eyes wide open. When your interviewee responds, pay attention to their nonverbal words, which may be just as, if not more, compelling than their verbal responses.
Do they come across as agitated on certain topics? Do they giggle when asked specific questions? If you are conducting a live interview in someone's personal space, paying attention to details can provide context and richness to your writing. How is the coffee table arranged? What type of photos are collaged on their refrigerator? Does the room smell like an unfortunate mix of sewage and freshly baked croissants? It's weird; write it down.
#3 Craft Informed Questions In Advance
The best questions are not only purpose-driven, but open-ended. They begin with "How?" "What?" "Where?" "When?" "Why?" They are conversation starters and promote thoughtful responses that yield the wealth of information needed to create a thorough, factual essay.
While closed-ended questions are more limiting, they also support a worthy purpose. When you need a straightforward answer, they get right to the point: "Have you shared confidential information with a third party?" Straightforward questions get people on the record.
The worst questions are conversation enders, such as double-entendre questions. Do you think students should have more lessons about history and culture?" This question asks two different questions. " Do you think students should have more classes on history" and "Do you think students should have more classes on culture?"
Combining two questions into one can make it unclear what exactly is being measured. If each question elicits a different response separately, it is likely to confuse your sources. A two-pronged question also gives subjects a choice, allowing them to avoid the question they want to ignore in favor of the less difficult one.
#4 Share Your Plan
Especially when the conversation is moving quickly and your sources are eager to share, it's easy to forget what you need to extract from the interview. Knowing where you want to start, where you want to end, and the trajectory you need to take will keep you on the right track. Conversations can quickly get derailed, and sharing your roadmap with your sources from the beginning will keep things moving in the right direction.
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