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YOUR APPROACH TO THE INTERVIEW

The interview starts outside the door. You need to be clear why you are there, what you are going to ask and what you want to know. You need to be appropriately dressed with the tools of your trade - notebooks, recorders or cameras discreetly out of sight. You should not be smokitig, chewing gum or doing anything else that is likely to spark an adverse reaction. The trite, old phrase, There's never a second chance to make 'a first impression' is only annoying because it's true.

Interviewing allows you to find out the who, what, when, where, why and how of the story and retell in the words of those who know about it with conviction, credibility and authority. It is all very well for us to say that a chief constable has supported the decriminalisation of soft drugs, but we much prefer to hear it from the man's lips. A TV interview or blocks of quotes with a picture in the paper add credibility and authority. They also bring the story to life and add interest. Without good solid quotes to support what you write, your story will be thin and unbelievable, and will certainly not carry conviction either to the reader or to the High court judge who may be called upon to set a l evel of damages if your story is inadequate enough to end up in the courts.

The first thing to do for a good one-to-one interview is to carry out a little research. Read Who's Who: go to your library and get out the cuttings. Having some details or the subject at –your fingertips is both flattering to them and important for you if only on a basic level your interview is not going to go well if your first question is, 'Well, Prime Minister, what party do you represent? It does not raise your standing in the eyes of the interviewee and is likely to lead to them cutting you short. But knowing that a politician once held directorships in certain companies might well give you the insight into a good story, auowing (?) you to link that knowledge with a remark made by the interviewee that would otherwise be meaningless.

Having done your research on the subject (assuming you have the time), it is also often worth researching the venue for the interview. If, for instance, a Cabinet Minister is visiting and you are able to grab him for a few minutes for a private interview, it will make you look more efficient and give you the chance to cut out the opposition, if you are able to say, If we just go over here minister, there is a quiet office where we can talk'. This is where a local journalist can often outwit the nationals — provided you do your research first. This knowledge is vitai to the radio and TV reporter who would prefer a bit of space in a quiet, controlled environment to make the most of the interview. As in all things, preparation is the key to success. You have researched the subject and the venue, now you need to be sure you are clear about what you want to know. It is no good blindly asking questions in the hope that you will strike it lucky and get a good story. You need to know what you are after.

If you are talking to the Minister for Industry, it is not much use talking about the health service, unless you are working in local media and the minister happens to also be your local MP. Instead you need to know as much as possible about industry, particularly local industry, and be aware of any controversial issues. Put yourself in the place of the reader: what would they want to know if the minister dropped into their house for a chat?

Try to Prepare questions that get to the heart of the issue. You are not there specifically to embarrass the minister just to show how clever you are — although if he or she puts his or her foot in it, you cart certainly make the most of it! You are trying to find out about the person, the policies and the plans. Your aim should be to give the reader a clear picture of what is happening that might affect their lives.

 
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