Here’s more on interviewing for a feature article

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If you don’t have access to a microcassette recorder, you’ll have to make a hard copy log of the interview.  And your feature article will only be as good as the notes you take.  Learning shorthand at school many years ago was a skill that I’ve let slip, but it is a great asset when it comes to taking quick, detailed notes. 

If you’re new to interviewing, it is difficult to maintain eye contact with the interviewee whilst you are busy scribbling notes.  The person you are interviewing shouldn’t be offended by this but you can involve them in the note taking process by asking them to repeat something interesting or important.  Maybe they’ve given you a really good quote and if so, just ask them to repeat it so you write it word-for-word.

When writing notes during an interview, I find it useful to draw a line down the left hand side of my A4 notebook and in the margin, write the main key words that relate to the information I’ve written on the right hand side.  For example, you may be interviewing a sports personality, so in the left hand side, your key words could include “early years”, “major wins”, “hobbies/interests”, “inspirational moments”, etc.

It is important to maintain focus throughout the interview.  When you’ve got limited time, you need to make sure you get all the key information you need from your interviewee to be able to write up a good feature article.  You may find that your subject goes off on a tangent if you touch on a topic that they are particularly enthusiastic about.  This is where the preparation you did before the interview is important so that you know what you want to cover and can bring the interviewee back into line when they divert.

Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewee to clarify something if you’re not sure you understand their response.  This is especially important when you are interviewing someone on a topic you know nothing about.  Also give them the option to add anything that you may not have covered during the interview.

At the end of the interview, it is ok to verify as much information as possible.  Spend a few moments checking your notes in the presence of the interviewee to ensure you’ve got factual information correct.  They will appreciate your diligence but be careful that the interviewee doesn’t take advantage to change your story – you’re really only interested in checking facts and quotes for your feature article.

I hope you find these reflections on interviewing of interest.  If you have anything to add, why not email me  I look forward to hearing from you.

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