© 2015 Angela N. Oliver
Interviews are a fun way to gather info. They allow you to network and sharpen your communication skills. And no matter how much you love letting the buzz of florescent lights hypnotize you into slumber, interviews give you an escape from the office.
But for an interview to be useful, you can’t be satisfied with what’s on the surface – you must DIG!
(D)elve into the details.
I’m no fan of small talk, but sometimes chatting about minor things leads to major revelations.
You did your homework on Kenya and know she has no children, so who’s that cute baby in the photo on her desk? She’s prim, so what’s with that shrine to West Coast rappers in the corner? Also, pay attention to body language, word choice, tone, and facial expressions.
Interviews easily yield words, but words mean nothing without context. Every setting brims with details for your piece.
(I)nteract, don’t interject.
Journalism forbids getting too cozy with sources. Even outside journalism, it’s good to keep a certain distance to maintain professionalism. But you don’t have to be a robot.
As the conversation with Miguel goes on, laugh at his jokes, answer his questions, expound on commonalities. Let’s say he’s a trainer. Talk while you tour the gym and ask him to show you an exercise. Be part of the experience.
No one likes being in the “hot seat.” So interacting with Miguel in his element will help him relax. If the questions turn controversial, don’t interject your opinion. The story is about Miguel, not you.
Interaction engenders Miguel’s trust that you’ll relay his story with respect, exactly as he told it.
(G)o with the flow.
Background research is essential to saving time. Preparation includes a list of questions to keep the interview on track. But don’t underestimate the value of a tangent.
If Elizabeth gets excited about a thought unrelated to your question, go with the flow. Tangents can be distracting, but they can also reveal thoughts the person wouldn’t have shared by answering your questions alone. That could change the story’s direction. Don’t let tunnel vision block a deeper story. But it’s also your job to rein in the conversation and get clear answers.
The art of interviewing requires an open mind, intense listening, and the ability to catch whatever sources throw your way. Preparation and the willingness to adapt will ensure success. Just DIG deep.
Angela N. Oliver is a Georgia girl who found her way to Kentucky, first as a student at Western Kentucky University and for the past three years, as a reporter and now the features editor of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. The Atlanta native finds charm in small towns and loves the written word, promoting diversity, and serving the community. She plans to roll that all into one career some time soon.