End the conversation by recapping the arrange-
ments agreed upon. If the interview is more than a day
away, contact him a few hours in advance to confirm the
RESEARCHING THE SUBJECT
By this time, you should know the important role
research plays in interviewing. Your audience expects
you to be knowledgeable and the interviewee expects
you to know about him or the topic of the interview. The
more you know, the better will be your questions. In fact,
it is a good idea for you to go into an interview knowing
all the answers to the questions you will ask
The following are some tips to help you research
Check with the appropriate public affairs office
for a biography or fact sheet if the story involves
military equipment, a distinguished visitor or key
officer. Also look for guidance regarding topics
that might be sensitive in nature.
Gather useful background materials at the library
(magazine or newspaper articles, encyclopedias,
reference books, technical manuals, etc.).
Know where and how to find the point of contact
for the subject.
Seek local expertise at the appropriate agency
and talk to these people about the subject or topic
of your interview. (This adds depth and
background to the program.)
Let your research material guide the interview, not
control it. While conducting the interview, remember
that you represent the audience who does not have the
facts you have.
The key to a good interview is your asking clear,
concise questions. Determine the focus of your
interview and formulate your questions around a
primary idea. Be prepared to leave yourself open to new
information you may not have known. You might have
to switch your focus or incorporate new information into
your final product.
Different types of interviews have unique
approaches with varying question types. The length of
time you have also determines the questions you can
ask. If you have ample time, you can discuss the topic
at length. On the other hand, if time is at a premium,
word your questions to get to the point quickly.
Keep the following suggestions in mind when you
formulate your inteview questions:
Ask open-ended questions questions that
cannot be answered with only a yes or no
reply. For example, if you are interviewing the
head coach of a football team, you would ask
Describe your teams attitude for todays
game, instead of, Is your team up for todays
game? If you must ask a question that is
answered by yes or no, ask the interviewee to
explain his answers in more detail. Further, by
using the five Ws and H as the first word in your
question, you assure yourself of more than a yes
or no reply.
Be simple and direct. Do not beat around the bush
in asking a question or by asking multiple
questions. This only confuses the interviewee
and your audience.
Off-the-record conversations are exactly
that off-the-record. Do not ask questions
previously discussed in confidence during the
Avoid asking trite questions. For example:
Today our guest is Senator Spike Moss,
Republican from Hawaii. How are you today?
Do not ask your guest embarrassing or antago-
nistic questions. For example: Coach, you gave
your catcher the steal sign with two outs and your
team down by seven runs. He was thrown out
easily at second base. This violates a basic
baseball strategy even a 5-year-old would
understand. Why did you do it?
Avoid using military jargon. If you must use
jargon or acronyms, explain them. Do not assume
your audience knows the topic as well as you and
the interviewee know it.
Do not comment on responses in trite ways or act
surprised. For example: I agree or You dont
Use questions that will interest your audience.
Ask yourself what it is they would like to know
from the subject.
Prepare more questions than you think you will
need. This will ensure the best possible coverage
of the topic.