The Art of the Interview

After writing the news release and preparing for weeks, the phone rings. It is a reporter wanting to cover your story and do an interview. Now what? With proper preparation and a little practice, an interview can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Here are a few general guidelines for a good interview:

  • Speak in bullet points. Most broadcast news stories are 10 to 30 seconds long and the newspaper doesn’t have the space for lengthy quotes. Keep it straight, to-the-point and compelling.
  • Stick to the talking points and avoid going off onto tangents.
  • Be prompt in your response when a reporter leaces you a message. Most reporters are working under a tight deadline, so respond to phone calls and requests as quickly as possible.
  • Maintain realistic expectations surrounding an interview and understand the rights of an interviewee.
  • Ask for clarification if a question is unclear. It is better to understand what the reporter wants to know than answering around the question and appearing evasive.
  • Do not feel pressured to answer questions you do not know the answer to. If you are a parent and a reporter is asking about a specific school policy, refer them to the principal or a teacher who would be more acquainted with the topic.
  • Avoid jargon and complicated terminology. For example, use the more general term “engineering improvements” instead of specific jargon such as “bulbouts.”
  • Be aware and try to avoid nervous habits such as repetitively saying “uuumm” or shifting your feet.
  • Avoid expressing your personal opinion when speaking about the program. If you think a school could do more to reduce speed in its drop-off zone, the front page of the newspaper may not be the best place to announce this.
  • Never say “no comment.” If you simply do not know the answer, then say that. If it is against policy to answer a certain type of question, then tell that to the reporter.

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