Talk to Me
March 20, 2020
Before journalists write a story, they gather facts and details. One way they do this is with interviews.
Step one of conducting a successful interview? Research. “You don’t want to arrive at your interview clueless,” TFK Kid Reporter Zara Wierzbowski says. Take notes while you research. Later, this will help you write a list of specific questions for the person you’re interviewing. “Don’t just ask really basic questions,” TFK Kid Reporter Mira McInnes says. “Take the time to delve deeper.”
When it’s time for the interview, do as TFK Kid Reporter Nora Wilson-Hartgrove says: “Be extra prepared!” Whether the interview is in person or over the phone, be ready. Bring your audio-recording device, a notebook, and pens or pencils. Don’t forget your list of well-researched questions.
Then it’s time to talk—and listen. “Try to connect with them on a personal level and have a conversation,” TFK Kid Reporter Eshaan Mani says.
Some interviews are harder than others. For these, Jason Lipshutz has advice. He works at Billboard, a publication that covers the music business.
Lipshutz always does research before an interview. Still, people can surprise him. What does he do if the person he’s interviewing mentions a topic he’s not familiar with? “It’s okay to ask, ‘What do you mean?’ or ‘What is that?’” Lipshutz says. “It shows that you’re paying attention and want to learn more.”
Sometimes, journalists have to ask people about something difficult, such as a controversy. In these cases, Lipshutz says they should try to be sensitive. Instead of asking an uncomfortable question, address the topic indirectly. “See if they pick up the ball and run with it,” he says. If they open up, listen closely. “The Number 1 job of an interviewer is to listen,” he adds.
And if you’re nervous? TFK Kid Reporter Zara has wise words. “Stay calm,” she says. “The more you do it, the more you’ll get the hang of it.”