Tips for Conducting a Successful OYW Interview

By Brenna Carse and Wynonna Rinkacs

Interviewing is an integral part of the journalism process.  When acting as a One Young World Junior Reporter, there are several things to keep in mind.  Today, we talked to three OYW advisors – Jason Snyder, a freelance photographer; Chanessa Schuler, a multi-media specialist at Saturday Light Brigade; and Tony Norman, a columnist for The Pittsburgh Post Gazette – about the interview process so that the junior reporters will be prepared to collect firsthand information at the summit. 

Setting up the Interview

When approaching a potential interviewee, be friendly and polite.  Introduce yourself, describe what you do, and explain why his or her interview is important and benefits the general public.  At OYW, you will interview delegates from other countries, so respect their cultural differences and always remain polite.  Most of your interviews during the summit will be on-the-spot, but if someone is interested in being interviewed and is not available at that moment, ask what the most convenient time and place would be for the interview in the future.  If the delegate declines an interview, ask if he or she knows someone else who would be interested in being interviewed.  Since at least two delegates are arriving from each country, you should be able to find someone else from a similar culture who is willing to be interviewed. 

Preparing for an Interview

If you have the opportunity to interview a prominent figure who is acting as a counsellor, prepare your questions ahead of time.  Make sure to do as much research as possible about the person to write in-depth, open-ended questions.  Simple questions may make you seem unprofessional or unprepared. 

Conducting a Successful Interview

Etiquette is a vital part of conducting an interview.  While interviewing, maintain eye contact with the interviewee to show that you are giving him or her your full attention.  Be an engaged listener; there is a distinct difference between really listening to someone speak and simply hearing the response.  If you do not listen well, you may ask a question that has already been answered by the interviewee, which would appear very unprofessional.  Know how to work your equipment (audio, visual, etc.) before you arrive to the interview.  At OYW, you will most likely be interviewing in pairs, so one team member should work the equipment while the other asks the questions.  Remember to respect the personal space and cultural differences of each interviewee.  Not everyone will respond well to a microphone shoved in his or her face!

If you find yourself with an uncooperative interviewee, take a step back.  Ask yourself, “Are my questions making this person feel uncomfortable?”  If so, ask some more basic questions about the interviewee’s life to make him or her feel more relaxed and willing to open up to you.  If this still doesn’t work, determine whether or not this person is crucial to the success of the story.  A peripheral opinion can often be let go, but if the opinion is central to the story, keep going.  Try to find out why the interviewee feels uncomfortable.  He or she may not feel completely trusting of media or journalists, so reassure him or her that you are an accurate and ethical journalist.  If the interviewee still refuses to open up, accept this and ask for his or her contact information.  Be sure to email or call the interviewee later because he or she may have had a change of heart.  Empathy is the key to a successful interview!

Asking follow-up questions is also an important component of the interview process.  When asking a question, keep your potential follow-up in mind.  Ease into the question, but be quick and concise.  If the interviewee is not answering the follow-up clearly, be polite but aggressive.  Stop him or her and ask for a clarification.  Restate the question if necessary.  Don’t let the interviewee get too vague and off-topic.  You deserve an answer!

Remember to always be ethical and as objective as possible.  Your integrity should not be compromised while conducting an interview.  Stay confident, polite, and engaged.  Don’t let the interview scare you; the interviewee is probably just as nervous.

Good luck to all of the OYW Junior Reporters in their future interviews!

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