Make your own newspaper

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2005, 12:00am

A good STORY is more than just the facts. People want to read about others, so every story needs a human element. The fact that your school is closing down is news; but it won't be a great story unless you find out its impact on teachers and students. Quotes from people affected by the news make a story come alive and that's why interviews are the lifeblood of reporting. But before you dash off to an interview and start firing questions, read these interview tips.

Setting up the appointment

Once you've decided who you want to interview, get in touch, explain why you want to interview them and make an appointment.

Preparing for the interview

Nothing irritates an interviewee more than an unprepared reporter, so do your homework before the interview. Research the subject and come up with a focus for your story. Then make a list of questions based on the information you need. Check that your tape recorder works and make sure you have a pen and paper to jot down notes.

Conducting the interview

On the day of the interview, arrive early. Introduce yourself and ask permission to record the discussion. During the interview ask open-ended questions beginning with Why, What or How, and avoid closed questions that can be answered with Yes or No. For example, if you're talking to an actor in a school play, ask 'What's the best thing about being an actor?' rather than 'Do you like acting?' Let the person being interviewed do the talking, but keep them focused on the topic by referring to your list of questions.

Taking notes

Even if you use a tape recorder during the interview, it's a good idea to take notes. It can be difficult to listen and write at the same time, so use abbreviations and only jot down the key points. If the person says something that you don't understand or need more information about, put a question mark in the margin so that you can come back to it later.

Ending the interview

At the end of the interview, check your list of questions to ensure you've got everything you need for your story. Get the correct the spelling of all names, titles, addresses, and so on. Then thank the person for the interview. If he or she asks to see a draft of the article, don't commit to it. Offer to send them a copy once it's printed. If there's any doubt, tell them politely that you need to check with your editor.

After the interview

Read your notes immediately after the interview while things are fresh in your mind. Look for information you can use to develop the angle, or focus, of your story and summarise it in a sentence or two. Then go through your notes again and highlight suitable facts and quotes.

And one final word of advice: You only get one shot at an interview, so make sure you get all the information you need.

If you ask the right questions, you'll have a notebook full of material for your story. Sprinkle it with a few lively quotes to make it one that the reader remembers.