By Victor A. Imhangbe
It occur to me that there are some gaps in previous article where I did not elaborate on the behind the scene scenario before the interview proper. Although I made brief reference to the relationship that exists between the interviewer and the interviewee, I would like the readers to have a picture on what actually transpire before news hit the newsstands. What factors that may warrant granting an interview?
Looking and getting news
The interviewer can initiate contact soliciting a subject for an interview. In some cases if the subject is a public figure, several aids and acquaintance may facilitate the contact to the subject. On the other hand, a subject may be in position that is looking for a credible news media or reporter for a story where there is needs to set the record straight, especially if there has been some unsubstantiated rumour that is circulating in the public. In doing this, the subject may also pass through some middle people to facilitate this interview. While the interviewer uses their network to search for news worthy stories, the interviewee is also searching for reliable medium to release their news stories.
Determine the medium
Both parties will have to determine the medium and channel to pass the stories to fans, followers, associates and the general public. Is it going to be conducted on radio interview? TV interview or through electronics exchange like emails or post? If both parties agree on radio or TV interview, then appointment is debated and agreed upon. If it’s to be conducted by email there are guidelines to follow. For professionalism, Porter Anderson suggests the following plan every time you interview:
Guidelines to Email Interview
- Send him or her a confirmation e-mail immediately;
- Include your questions;
- Tell him or her when you’ll run the interview;
- Give your guest a deadline to return written interview answers; and
- If you’re going to be doing an in-person or phone interview, confirm a time and date.
Email interview is almost like the telephone interviews with some shortcomings compare to the in-person interview format. However it is preferable for a journalist working on deadline and tight schedule. You must consider email etiquette for reporters and follow the below steps:
- Remember to introduce yourself and the media outlet you work for, mentioned the numbers of your audience, the community you serve.
- Present your story in a way that will entice the interest of your subject to participate.
- Make it clear to the subject how you manage to get his/her contact.
- Explain how you think their comments can add perspective or insight to your story.
- Provide your subject with your contact information, location and other relevant information.
- You may offer to make it a phone interview rather than email interview to save his/her time.
- Give the source enough time to verify your identity, just the same way you verify someone who approach you for the first time on email.
- Make reference to your previous articles and provide a link for your source to have access.
- Ensure you are clear about your deadline. Make it clear to the subject when you need the responses back in order to meet your deadline.
- Remember to be formal in your writing by following strictly to the use of upper and lower case writing, with no abbreviations for common words; full sentences; and correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
- Don’t send interview question on attachment; a Microsoft Word document or other format. People are uncomfortable opening files they receive from strangers lest there be a computer virus or worm attached.
E-mailing the interview questions:
Kindly observe the following outline by Sandeep Junnarkar:
- Whether you’re conducting a face-to-face, phone, or e-mail interview, do the same rigorous background research to prepare the questions.
- E-mail the questions to at least three sources that have similar backgrounds. Hopefully at least one will respond immediately. (Don’t cc the three. Send separate e-mails.)
- Keep questions short, clear, and to the point with just one concept or inquiry per question.
- Start with overview questions — but only a couple. No one feels like typing out long general responses.
- Move on to specific, targeted questions: no more than four or five so you don’t overwhelm the source with the request. This is where they find the delete button especially handy.
- Ask questions that get a “yes” or “no” response only to confirm facts or statements.
- Ask for documents, studies, and images relevant to your story. Sources can easily attach and send these to you.
- Request the names of other sources that may be relevant to your story.
Once you e-mail the questions, what should you do while waiting and how long should you wait for a response?
- If the news you are working on is a breaking news story, you need to call your sources after an hour interval. This can also depend on your deadline.
- If it is a feature piece, you can give at least 48 hours before sending a reminder.
- Try to exhaust other avenue to ask the same questions.
- Brainstorm for questions you might have forgotten to ask.
When the response arrives, what is next?
According to Junnarkar: before you send the “Thank you” response make sure you thoroughly read the responses carefully. Weigh them against the reporting that you have accomplished since sending out the initial e-mail. Check if there are holes that need to be filled, if the response is clear and understanble to you and the audience, if not seek for further clarifications in some specific area.
- In requesting for clarifications; politely ask again about questions that went unanswered; slip in the follow-up questions and the new questions you formulated while waiting.
- Once you received the feedback satisfactorily, send official thank you letter.
- Let the source know that you will send a link or clip of the article when it’s published. Then, set up a reminder so you deliver what you promised!
- Build the source’s confidence in you: use their responses fairly and in context.
- These steps will help you get the most out of e-mail interviews while boosting your credibility in your new sources’ eyes, giving you contacts around the country and world to turn to at a moment’s notice for future stories.
We take delight in your feedback and suggestion on ways to improve on the subject.Kindly use the comment column below.