More than anything else, a journalist has to get the facts straight. To do that, you often have to go right to the source and conduct an in-person interview. Not all interviews are equal, and there are steps you should take, such as getting an interview transcription, before writing your article to make sure you’re getting the most out of what might be a one-time-only personal meeting.
Before meeting with your interview subject, you have to prepare. Part of a good interviewer’s preparation is research followed by writing a list of intelligent, relevant questions to ask. By writing down your questions in advance, you can be sure you’re prepared for the encounter, and having everything you want to know in one place lets you focus more on the subject’s answers, which will eventually be converted to an interview transcription later, than on your own performance in the moment.
Having notes is great, but a professional interviewer has to be ready to depart from the script as needed. Sometimes, an interview subject will say something that departs from the expected conversation. When that happens, you might be onto a good story. Be ready to ditch the notes when opportunity presents itself and follow your hunches. Wherever the interview goes from there, focus on getting the information; you can refer back to the interview transcription later to see if you missed anything.
Whether you’re asking a list of questions you wrote weeks in advance or you’re just winging it, be sure to record an audio file of the subject’s responses for later conversion to a printed interview transcription. By capturing the clear, unvarnished responses to your questions, you’re equipping yourself with a valuable tool you can refer to later when you’re writing the piece. This approach works even better if you use a transcription service before starting work as you then have a professional, error-free copy of what was said that you can read over at a glance.
Interviewing people is an art, and it’s one that takes skill, preparation and confidence to do well. Do your research, and write down questions you want to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions. Perhaps most important, always capture an audio recording of the interview and work from an interview transcription later. To learn more about how transcription can make your work as a journalist easier, follow @TranscribeCom on Twitter.