Successful Interviews

Interviewing somebody about a serious topic can seem like an impossible task. Fret not, dear students! An interview is a process that can be broken down into a series of more manageable steps. Follow these steps for reduced stress for you, and increased interview quality for your story.

Step 1. Prepare for the interview.

  1. With your group, brainstorm what information you know about your the person you want to interview and the subject you are writing about.
  2. Then brainstorm questions you would like to answer.
  3. Try to find the answers to your questions through research. (Where can you find that kind of information?)
  4. Draw up a list of the specific questions you plan to ask, in the order you plan to ask them. Start with questions about the past, then move to the present, and finish with the future.

Step 2. Set up the interview / visit.

  1. Contact the person or organization you would like to interview.
  2. Explain that you are a student journalist writing for a university English class, and would like to interview them about the topic of your article.
    1. Mention that you would like to take photos as well (and if you will have a partner to take pictures.)
    2. If it’s an organization, they may have a “press kit” which is photos and information they would like to publish.
  3. Give them the address of the website so they can feel more confident. If they ask, you may give them my email address.
  4. Set up a time that is convenient for both of you.

Step 3. Conduct the Interview & the Follow Up

  1. Be aware that you are representing the university so…
  2. Be on time. Be on time. Be on time.
  3. Be careful not to take up too much time.
  4. Listen for quotes, and listen for information.
  5. Go in with a story idea, but be ready to change your idea
  6. Shut up and listen
    1. The most powerful and important practice in the world – not to mention journalism — is listening. Learn how to ask good questions and then be quiet and let your source tell you what he or she wants.
  7. Send thank you email and ask if you might contact them again for any follow up questions.
  8. After your article is published, send them an email with a link to your story and thank them again.


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