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Once you've found your sources, the next step is to get the best information out of them that you can. There are many different ways to interview people, and much of it depends on who your source is: a person on the street, a community representative, an activist or an expert. Interviewing sources is a complicated skill that can only be developed with lots and lots of practice, but some general rules always apply.
A generation ago, news interviews were almost always conducted face-to-face. Over time, phone interviews became acceptable, and today even email and instant-messenger interviews are fairly commonplace. But especially for new journalists developing their interviewing skills, nothing beats a face-to-face or phone interview. Except in rare cases where there is no alternative, you should avoid email interviews, since your subject often comes across sounding unnaturally polished.
Assuming you'll be interviewing your source in person or over the phone, here are some general rules to keep in mind:
1) Always be up-front about why you're interviewing someone. Tell your source whom you're writing for and what you're writing about. Offering more details about your angle on a story can help sources give you the right information.
2) Let your source talk. Although some sources will talk too much and stray too far from your questions, the best information will often come as the source thinks out loud.
3) Listen for follow-up questions. One way to keep a source on track is to ask pointed follow-ups: find a spot in the conversation to interrupt and ask him or her to elaborate on a point.
4) Record your interview whenever possible. Having a recorded (and preferably transcribed) interview gives you an easy way to quote your sources accurately, dig up important information you might have missed during your conversation, and frees you to pay full attention to your source as you talk.
If you've got a computer and $40, you can record any phone interview you conduct, using a phone program like Gizmo and a USB headset. It's always a good idea to ask your source's permission to record, and many states have laws against recording phone calls without permission. If you're going to record an interview, make sure to follow this checklist.
The Art of Interviewing:
Tech journalist Dan Gillmor has some insightful tips posted on Bayosphere.com:
Ten Tips for a Better Interview:
The New York Times' interviewing techniques:
Journalism.org: Getting the Most Out of Your Interview: