Can I ask you a few questions?

By Caroline Fernandez

The first session of the day that I attended was with The University of Montana’s Henriette Lowisch. The session, called It’s the Questions, Stupid! Scoring and Acting that Interview, focused on how to get the most out of interviews, depending on what type of person you are interviewing.

Lowisch discussed the three main types of people you will encounter when you are interviewing for a story and how to approach each type of person. 

1. A person who really wants to talk with you

-These people are easy to get information out of because they probably have an agenda and talking points. It’s “like a walking press conference”

-These people give you leads

-The problem is how to stop them

*You can try to stop them by asking them closed questions (questions that will only produce yes or no answers)

-Even if they’re talking a lot do NOT just nod

*Wein yourself from nodding because if you do nod while a person is speaking you will lure them into believing that you agree with them

2. A person who really does NOT want to talk with you

-If you can’t even get the interview scheduled, go to a supervisor above the intended source

-Once you get the interview you won’t have much time

*Make a short list of the must have questions and answers … ask those first in the interview

3. A person who is reluctant to talk with you

-These are normal, ordinary people whose voices aren’t always heard but need to be heard … these are the people you are in the business for

-They want to know what’s in it for them

*If you talk to them you will be able to see their valuable and unique side of the story. Every perspective is valuable because each is unique

-You will need an icebreaker with this type of person

*Start off with an easy topic like the weather or how their day is going

When the interview is finished … 

-Take 10 minutes to write down your impressions of the person

*Start off with the first 3 things that stand out the most to you about that person

For me this session was so valuable because interviewing a person, in my opinion, is the most important part of the story. If your interview doesn’t go well and you don’t get sufficient information out of them, then your story will have holes and be poorly researched. A good interview will give you your attention-grabbing lead as well as sources and information  that make your story credible.


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