Nailing an interview for your story

The best interviewing tips from NewsBreak Creators

A good interview can help turn an okay story into a great one. It can help your audience connect and add character to your piece. Interviews are also important to make sure you are covering a topic accurately and fairly. So whether you’re an interview expert or newbie, it’s always a good idea to brush up on interviewing tips, etiquette and advice. 


One of the first steps in securing an interview is reaching out to the source. NewsBreak Creator Vic Aquino said, “After I decide who could make a good interview, I determine which channel could be best to reach them.” This could mean a phone call, email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. When reaching out to a source, especially if it’s your first time contacting them, it’s always best to identify yourself, the purpose of the interview, and the platform the story will be published. These messages don’t have to be long, in fact Aquino prefers to keep his messages short and simple.  


Ed García Conde, the founder of Welcome2TheBronx, has been reporting for 12 years. He said, “Each time almost feels like the first, but it does get easier! Just start with what and who you know and work from there. You'll find that the process isn't as daunting as it may seem.” His advice for reporters and content creators reaching out to interview a source for the first time is to start with someone you’re familiar with and a topic you’re interested in writing about. 


While operating during a pandemic, you might find yourself conducting a lot of interviews over email and video calls, instead of in person. Thomas Smith often prefers to reach out through email with his story questions. He said, “Sending questions by email gives your interviewee time to think about their responses, to make sure the facts they're citing are accurate, and to involve other members of their organization if they need to.” 


Depending on the story, a phone, in-person or video interview might make more sense. This might allow you to really connect with your subject and discover things that you wouldn’t always pick up from just text. If you do conduct a phone, in-person, or video interview, it might make sense for you to record it, so you can go over it afterwards. However, you should always ask your interviewee before recording an interview as different states have different recording laws


Once you’ve determined where and when the interview will take place, it’s time to start preparing your questions. “While you may have many questions, remember to frame them around the "five Ws": Who, what, where, when why, and of course the lone H, how,” García Conde explained. Some examples of this are, “Who's involved? What's happening? Where is it happening? When is it happening? Why is it happening? How is this happening?” He said, “These are excellent guides not just for a first-time interviewer, but also fit for those who have done them in the past and are seeking to improve their approach.”


Aquino recommends that you:

  • Make the person feel comfortable and ask how much time they have 
  • Prepare short, simple open-ended questions that get them to engage
  • Really listen with sincere interest and ask clarifying questions
  • Have a good level of confidence/authority, but with equal humility 


Bryce Gruber said, “When it comes to making a compelling interview, always ask someone for their version of facts and any supporting information, studies, or links to back those facts up, and then ask for their opinions. Make sure to separate the two, that’s the service we owe the readers, but also makes for a more polished, professional piece.” 


As you become more and more comfortable conducting interviews, you’ll often find yourself developing relationships with local officials, businesses and people. Smith shared that, “Most media contacts are happy to have reporters sharing their announcements.” You always want to “share their statements accurately and truthfully in your stories.” He said, “These ongoing relationships can be valuable to you in obtaining unique perspectives for your story, and valuable for the agency, in providing a trusted way to share breaking news updates.” 


Gruber also shared this very important piece of advice, “Always ask a source how they want their name to appear and how to be credited. This is extremely important, and we should never assume how someone wants their name or credentials to appear — asking is easy, quick, and just great journalism etiquette.” 


If you’re feeling nervous about interviewing anyone just remember, “People love to speak about what's important to them so they're going to be doing most of the talking,” said García Conde. “Overall, I've learned the interview aspect should be a very welcomed part of being a writer and a chance to expand your network and knowledge,” said Aquino.  


Thank you to the NewsBreak Creators who graciously shared these amazing interview tips!

For more tips & tricks, be sure to follow NewsBreak Creators.