important when you are talking to a family where
tragedy has struck
CASUAL INTERVIEW. An accidental
encounter between a journalist and a news source on the
street or at a social gathering can often result in a tip that
arouses the curiosity of a writer. A major news story may
be the result after you do some digging.
PERSONALITY INTERVIEW. In the per-
sonality interview an effort is made to let the reader see
the appearance, mannerisms, background and even the
character of the subject. Magazines like the New Yorker
have developed this type of interview, called a profile,
into a high art not easily attained by daily newspapers
under the pressure of deadlines. However, with
preliminary research on an interviewees background,
intelligent planning of questions and skillful
interviewing, a good journalist can let a persons words
and mannerisms bring that individual vividly to life in
an interesting newspaper feature story.
SYMPOSIUM INTERVIEW. From time to
time, news developments of current interest require a
journalist or a team of journalists to seek information
not from one or two sources but from a dozen, or perhaps
a hundred or more. For example, which of the two
presidential candidates in the television debate made the
best impression on the public? How do the residents of
a city feel about their football team winning the Super
Bowl? For some stories as in a pre-election poll
all of the techniques of a scientific opinion sampling
may be required. In other instances, reactions and
comments may result in a lively feature story.
Depending on the subject, the symposium (or group)
interview may bring out opinions of importance,
entertainment or merely the views of the man on the
street on some subject of general interest.
NEWS CONFERENCE. In recent years, an
increasingly popular phenomenon of journalism has
developed the news conference. By presenting news
conferences live on television, President Kennedy
raised them to one of the most potent forces in the public
exchange of opinion between the people and their
government. For close to 70 years, in a different format,
the news conference has been an important source of
news. The person interviewed at a news conference may
be the President of the United States, the Chief of Naval
Operations, a senior government official, the manager
of a big league team, a movie star plugging a new motion
picture or any other person promoting what is believed
to be a news story of interest to the public. As in every
interview story, preliminary groundwork pays off; a
knowledge of the interviewees background is
indispensable. During the interview, an alertness to story
possibilities often leads to unexpected results.
Additional details on news conferences are covered
later in this chapter.
PREPARED QUESTION INTERVIEW.
When direct person-to-person questioning cannot be
arranged with an important news source, journalists
occasionally resort to giving that source a set of prepared
questions to which a reply is requested. More often than
not, however, the questions go unheeded. When the
journalist does get a reply, a major news story generally
In every interview assignment, the journalists
objective is always the same to ferret out as much
news, details, significance and color about a personality
or event as possible. The success of the story depends
on the quantity and quality of the information gleaned
from the interview and the journalists sense of news
values and writing ability.
The manner in which you prepare for conducting
interviews can often determine the successor future of
those projects. What follows are 10 tips on handling
interview assignments that should prove useful to you.
1. Know what you want. Whether you are
interviewing someone for a hard news story or you are
on an assignment for a feature, remember you are the
one who will have to write the story. This means that
you must bear in mind the essence of the story you are
after or the angle you want to develop. If you are
covering afire, what are the things you should find out?
They will include whether anyone was hurt, the extent
of the damage, the cause of the fire, how it was
discovered, which fire stations responded, how long it
took to put out the blaze and many other facts.
The same kind of analysis must be applied to all
stories. This will guide you in your questioning, and
most important, in your search for details. Learn how to
dig for facts. Be alert, interested and curious. Details are
more vivid than generalities. For example, if your
subject casually mentions he was the editor of a college
newspaper, find out the name of the college and when
the position was held. These are simple, natural
questions that will come to the minds of some of your
readers; do not leave them unsatisfied. Every story is
unique. It will differ from others in many details. Unless
you know what to look for and how to get it through
proper questioning, your story will be incomplete.