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Thursday, October 22, 2015
Generation J Toolbox

Quick interview tips to get what you need

By Jacqueline A. Ingles

News gathering, working sources, getting strangers to open up on camera.

Reporters, especially multimedia journalists like myself, have a tall order every day. If you’re anything like me as a one-woman band in TV, not only are you shooting and editing, you need to get information, process it and make it worthwhile to watch. Sometimes you may get what you need to just barely throw a package together, but there are quick tricks to get what you want. Try these tips with the help of your old friend psychology to lend a hand.

DON'T SPEAK

No, I’m talking about the lyrics to a 1995 No Doubt song. Sometimes when you’re trying to pull those emotional bytes out of interviewees, they may not give you what you want. If someone gives you an answer to a question you don't like, don't launch into another question. Instead, stay quiet and keep eye contact. They’ll usually feel pressured to keep talking and reveal more.

EXAMPLE: There was double murder-suicide here in the Bay Area in October. The daughter of the shooter agreed to go on camera but did not want to talk about the call her father (the shooter) made to her right before he took his own life. When I asked her about when she learned of the shooting, she gave me a very canned answer. Instead of quickly following up with a question, I allowed an awkward pause and it prompted her to keep talking. That’s when she opened up and gave me a detailed description of her father telling her goodbye for the last time.

GIVE SOMETHING TO GET SOMETHING

Reporters are often asking people to give them things – interviews, pictures, details – of the most intimate moments in life. Many times reporters may not know it, but they have more details that have not been released to the families or people they're covering. By sharing this information, those people trust you, come to rely on you and are more apt to help you.

EXAMPLE: I was assigned a tragic story of a teen killed while walking to school. When I showed up at her mother's house four hours after, emotions were still raw. I was met with teenagers launching expletives telling me to keep it moving and get off the property. So I did. I began digging into the driver's background and found he had a record on the East Coast and a suspended license. Thirty minutes after I returned to the property, walked up and said, "Before you kick me off, you need to know the driver who killed your loved one shouldn't have been on the road. Please just look at his record on my phone." The family had no idea. Very quickly they warmed up to me, wanted to tell me about their loved one and wanted to share her photo.

NAME DROP

Name drop – just not the way you think. People like to hear their names and people calling on them. During interviews, you should already be asking interviewees their names and how they’re spelled. As hard as it is in a fast-developing situation, remember the name and use it. Most people find it charming and like that you are remembering what they’re telling you. Don't you feel validated when someone is talking to you and says your name?

EXAMPLE: Use their name in questions. Instead of, “How did you feel when you were told you were fired?” Personalize it. Try: "James, how did it feel when you got fired?" Your sources will cling to their identity and see themselves as an individual with a voice.

MIRROR MIRROR

Become a chameleon when around an interviewee/source. Closely watch their body language, postures, mannerisms and facial expressions. Ever wonder why people tend to like the ordinary and routine? It’s because they feel comfortable. If you mirror what someone does, they will see you as someone they can be themselves around, trust, etc.

EXAMPLE: If someone is recalling a special memory and she smiles, it’s easy – smile along with her. Does she talk with her hands and you don't? Try motioning more with your hands while speaking with her.

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