June 7, 2013

IMG_0131What are some of the reasons we do an interview?

To get the information we need about a topic/issue

To hear someone’s personal experience that  first-hand

Abstract issues are harder to relate to

To confront… to hear perspective of accused (e.g. criminal or politician)

To give somebody with a unique story a platform

As part of exploratory research (i.e. not everyone you interview will end up in your story)

To get all sides of a story / variety of voices

To make a story more interesting to a viewer/reader


Pre-interview is necessary because it makes the interviewee comfortable to share a story, makes you identify whether the interviewee can communicate clearly, have info you’re looking for and get a sense for their motivation.

How do you find the right person?

Go to the location and look for someone

Talk to someone in that circle

Talk to community representatives or leaders (e.g. health workers, etc.)

Go to focus/support group or community meeting

Talk to opinion leaders

Use your personal network

Google it (e.g. search word: “albinism and Mathare”)

Look at who other media have talked to

Designing your interview

Be ready to adapt during interview, but prepare as much as possible in advance. When designing an interview you have to ask yourself:

What’s my focus for this interview? What aspect of the story can this person speak to?

What KINDS of questions should I ask?

How should I design my question flow?

What potential challenges might I have with this interview/interviewee?

What logistics do I need to consider?

The kind of questions: What kind of questions do you like to lead/end with?

Open-ended (What, where, when, why, who, how…)

Others have said…

Direct question (Did you think you were going to die?)

Clarifying / follow-up (So, you didn’t really want to go?)

Tough / confrontational (Why did you steal that money?)

Someone might say that… (You don’t deserve happiness)

** Case study: Martin Bashir interviews Lady Di (1995; BBC)

During the interview


Use the time to get MORE out of the person

For longer interviews, consider giving brief overview of what you’d like to discuss

Avoid: making interview about you by showing off how much you know; looking stupid.

Think about:

Where should you keep your questions?

How closely should you stick to them?

Is it okay to note take?


Can you spell your name for me? ** Always get that person to say their name and spell it

Is there anything else I should be asking about this?

Why did you agree to speak to me?

Anyone else I should talk to about this?

Anything you’d like to add?


Question dodgers / shutting you out

– Rephrase, come back to it, challenge directly.

Confronting people alleged to have done something bad

– Accuse them gently, “people are saying…”,

Extremely sad subject/story

– Empathy is good but be careful not to get too emotional because jeopardizes professionalism and it’s not about you

Challenging an obvious liar

Show them the evidence; challenge them directly (“How can you expect people to believe that?”)

Answers given are unclear / repetitive

“You’ll sound better on TV if you sit up straight”

members doing an introduction

members doing an introduction











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