Interview skills

From Smoke Academy Wiki
In depth, set-piece interviews are common in magazines.

The interview is the core of journalism. You might interview someone to gain information (such as talking to a police officer after a crime). You might do it to gain emotional clips or quotes, or to discover someone’s opinion (eg. a victim of a crime). You might also conduct a set-piece interview, where the interview is a story in and of itself. This is the core of many magazine features.


Before an interview, it’s vital to prepare. Dress appropriately for the setting - to put people at ease. If you’re going to talk to an MP at their office, dress smartly. If you’re going to interview a punk band, consider doing the opposite.

Research the person you're interviewing and understand what you want out of the interview. If you ask basic questions and don’t appear to understand the situation, they won’t enjoy talking to you. Write down a few good open questions in advance and be sure to ask them.


Be confident, shake hands and try to establish a rapport. You’ll have a much more interesting interview if you can get a conversation going.

Remember the five Ws and the one H; who, what, when, where, why, how.

Make a record of the interview. This might be written notes, in shorthand or otherwise. You might want to record your interview with a sound recorder or camera, so that television or radio can use clips, and as an irrefutable record for yourself. Make sure your interviewee knows they’re being recorded.

Check spellings and key facts. Make sure you spell everyone’s name correctly. Don’t say that £500,000 was spent on a project of the true value was £50,000.

Don’t get more than you need. If you’re only looking for a quick quote for a breaking news story, don’t hang around for half an hour. Once you have what you need, feel free to drive the interview to a conclusion. At the same time, if you’re writing a magazine feature, don’t come away with a few “yes” and “no” answers.

It’s always better to meet face-to-face with someone if possible, though this can be daunting for beginners. It’s much easier to establish a rapport that way. If a face-to-face isn’t possible, push for a telephone interview. Only settle for email as a last option.

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