COJO 350 → WRITING RESOURCES → INFORMATION AND SOURCES

Bill Veeck

PHOTO BY MICHAEL O’DONNELL

Bill Veeck, owner of the Chicago White Sox, regales reporters on press day 1979 in the Bard’s Room under old Comiskey Park.

Conducting Effective Interviews

The best interviews are controlled and spontaneous. As the interviewer, your job is to guide the conversation along, to direct it to those areas of greatest interest to your readers. But you should never intrude so much that you stop the subject’s flow of thoughts. You must be willing to improvise.

Use a mixture of open-ended and closed questions

The most effective questions:

Prepare a list of questions

Ian Frazier

“There was a time when I understood a little better how to talk to people. And I understood that people weren't going to come out right away and tell me everything. It took many visits, many return visits, before they saw that I was serious. In other kinds of reporting situations, you come in and say, ‘Here, I have some questions,’ as we’re doing now, and the person will answer them.”

— Ian Frazier, discussing his book On the Rez with Dave Weich, Powells.com

Arranging the Interview

When you contact your subject to arrange the interview, you should:

The setting for the interview

Where you talk with a subject can influence the tone of the conversation, its direction and its overall success. Some suggestions:

Organize Equipment for the Interview

Should you use an audio recorder?

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

How should you use a tape recorder during the interview?

Conducting the Interview

While you are interviewing a subject, keep these things in mind:

Using Your Subject's Words

As soon as possible after the interview, translate your notes or transcribe your tapes. In a day or two, your scribbled notes will look like a foreign language, and you won’t be nearly as certain of exactly what your subject said.

(Adapted from Creative Conversations: The Writer’s Complete Guide to Conducting Interviews by Michael Schumacher, Writer’s Digest Books, 1993.)

COJO 350 → WRITING RESOURCES → CONDUCTING INTERVIEWS | RETURN TO TOP

COMMUNICATION AND JOURNALISM 350 | UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS | © 2010
INSTRUCTOR: Michael O’Donnell | mjodonnell@stthomas.edu | 651-962-5281