I’m the kind of person who likes to analyze and codify my life. Whatever I learn, I share it by writing about it. So when I started my job as an art reporter, I began noting down the things that helped me through the job. I’ve shared these lessons through Ja’s Reporter Rules Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, and now I’m at Part 4! Yey! But the sharing is still not over, so stay tuned for more. Anyhow, here’s part 4:
Think of a press con question in advance aside from your one-on-one interview questions
When I was starting out, I was too shy to ask questions during the press conference’s open forum. Everyone will stare at you as you possibly ask a dumb question. I also didn’t know how to balance asking a relevant question and keeping things to yourself so you’ll still have a unique angle for your story. So I decided to prepare in advance so that I’m not racking my brain during the press con.
Ask questions in the order of the structure of your article
This is what I learned from Ruel de Vera when I took his writing workshop. He said that when he writes down his questions for an interview, he does it in the order of the possible structure of the article that he will be writing. In this way, the answers follow the flow of the article, so when you type up your notes, then it’s pretty much in the order of how you want your article to progress. This saves you time and effort at restructuring your article. This was such a common sense advice, but before I heard it from Mr. de Vera, I never thought of doing it myself. This advice made things so much easier for me.
Start the interview with an easy non-threatening question
I always start my interview with an easy question. When did you start planning this exhibit? They’ll say something like “Since January”. So the psychological impact of that is, they’re like, yey, I can answer these questions, they’ll feel more comfortable with you, and eventually they get chatty.
The goal of questions: more recalling information rather than getting a quote
I understand that some journalists ask questions in order to get a quote, but not all interviewees are eloquent. When the journalist realizes this, he or she gets frustrated. “Wala akong napiga,” the journalist says, blaming the interviewee. This problem can be avoided if a journalist asks questions to get information rather than getting a quote. These questions are basically asking the interviewee to recall something that he or she already knows, and thus the interviewee will be capable of answering the question. Then, after getting all those bits of information, it’s the journalist’s responsibility to string them all together into a compelling narrative.
Of course, sometimes we really do need to get a quote so we ask questions that will make an interviewee give his or her opinion about something. I do this sometimes, but I avoid it if it’s not absolutely necessary. Or I ask it just to put in a breather in the interview, or a period of time where I am not listening (because I don’t need that particular answer) because I am thinking of the story and what else I need to ask in order to complete the story.
The last question in an interview should make the interviewee smile
End the interview with something a question that will put the interviewee in a good mood. By doing this, the interviewee will remember the interview as a pleasant experience and he or she will be willing to talk to you again.
- Answering Questions about My Notebooks and My Writing Process
- To Shift or Not to Shift
- Writing Exercise: The Morning Pages
- Writing Tip: Make a Pact with the Universe
- Click here for more Writing Exercises and Adventures.
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