Feature Writing: Interviewing

The Difference Between Interviews For News and Interviews For Features

News journalists have tighter deadlines and often have to conduct interviews over the phone, and although time is continually getting tighter for everyone, feature writers should have a little more time to conduct research and interviews before they have to hand in their written piece. Ideally, they have time to conduct face-to-face interviews where the reporter is able to spend more time with their interviewee and go further in depth with their questions and in describing their interview surroundings.

In face-to-face interviews you are given an insight to a person’s character, you can see their body language, how they dressed, how they did their hair and whether they played with their jewellery for example. Your location is also important and can give you something else to add to your piece. It’s often best to allow your interviewee to decide the location, therefore they can pick a place they feel comfortable in (however watch out in case they pick a noisy environment or a restaurant where you’ll have to write notes while eating or even pay for an expensive tab).

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Always Plan Your Interview

While it can allow for a relaxed conversation with your interviewee, not preparing prior to your interview can show a slight unprofessionalism, especially if you return to your newsroom missing the key answers you were looking for for your feature. While you can sometimes get away with visiting an interviewee again, it isn’t always that easy so you have to make sure you get everything you need the first time around.

Step 1 is always to research your subject. Know something about your interviewee and mention this when you meet them, people are generally impressed or flattered by this. 

When setting your date and time for your interview make sure that it is convenient for both you and your interviewee. Ensure you give yourself enough time to prepare beforehand while also ensuring that your interview is within your deadline enough to give you time to write your feature before the idea is outdated.

During The Interview

  • Turn up on time, don’t be late.
  • Introduce yourself (and the publication you’re working for) and ensure your interviewee is who you were expecting them to be.
  • Be polite and ‘keep your cool’.
  • Avoid ‘yes’ ‘no’ questions.
  • Double check facts like names and places, dates and ages before the end of the interview.
NOTES IN THIS POST ARE FROM: SUSAN PAPE AND SUE FEATHERSTONE, 2006, FEATURE WRITING: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION, LONDON: SAGE. P24 – 39 (CHAPTER 3)
I DO NOT OWN THE ABOVE IMAGE, IT IS FROM: http://danellebailey.com/design-blog/2015/12/2/tips-for-a-successful-customer-research-interview-session
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