How to Write an Interview in a News Story

how to write an interviewWhen writing an interview into a news story, or any other type of article, it is important to make sure you have a great title that makes readers want to read your piece. The title should be between four and nine words; anything less than four words tells the reader that you couldn’t think of anything, but any more than nine words is too wordy and usually causes confusion to the reader. For those that want to be news writers or even freelance writers, knowing how to write an interview is a crucial skill.

Before writing the news story with the interview included, you must conduct the interview itself. Chances are, you will not be able to interview the guest again, so it is important to make sure you have answers that can be used and show the interviewee in a good light. Before you even begin developing the interview questions, you might want to take a course to brush up on your speaking skills to provide the best interview possible.

Interview Questions

Interview questions, in general, fall within three categories. The first types of questions are typically bland, but help to establish who the interviewee is with questions such as where do you live, what do you do, where did you go to college, and the like. These are matter-of-fact questions and may not be exciting, but that can help establish credibility. (For example, if you were writing a piece of student life at a university, questions about whether the interviewee is a student and how long they’ve been a student may be necessary.)

The second type of question will help you get to the meat of what the interview is all about. These are intriguing questions with answers you might not necessarily be aware of. These questions are open-ended questions and not closed questions – meaning they can’t be answered with a yes, no, or a concrete fact. Closed questions are typically unexciting, and should really only be used for establishing details. Open-ended questions are questions such as:

  • How many sodas do you drink in a day?
  • If you had a million dollars, what three things would you purchase and why?

The questions above will not provide a yes or no response and you, as the interviewer, won’t know what answer you will receive. The first question mentioned above (about sodas) will generally provide only one answer (I drink three sodas a day), though you can then elaborate on that by asking something else about the sodas, such as preferred brands, where they are purchased, etc. The second question (about money) will provide three answers and the reasons behind those answers. You can then ask other probing questions about those reasons. For example, if the interviewee mentioned donating to charity as one of the things they would do with a million dollars, you could ask them what types of charities they enjoy donating to.

Yes, you should have some questions already written out and thought of, but it is also important to be able to improvise. This will allow you to get more information that could be useful to the article or blog.

The last type of question is the “never ask” question. These are extremely personal, rude, or embarrassing questions. While it can be appropriate to discuss sensitive or private subject matter of the interviewee has consented to this beforehand, remember that these questions are not appropriate for general interviews. You may consider asking the interviewee if there are any specific questions that they will not answer, or that will offend them before the interview, or allow them an “out” by telling them they are not required to answer any question they don’t want to answer.

Of course, every type of interview is different, and requires different skills and techniques. One other type of interviewing is investigative interviewing. For more extensive information on investigative interviews, take a look at the course offered from Udemy to master this technique.

Pictures

Pictures are extremely important in an interview news story or blog. Readers want to have a mental picture of whom they are reading about, and a picture helps tremendously, especially if the interviewee isn’t extremely well known.

Most interviews include a headshot with just the face showing and little to no emotion. However, consider what the interviewee does and what the questions are about. If the interview is more laid back, you can come up with some humorous or fun poses. Just remember to work with the interviewee and come up with something that suits your needs and their personality.

The best advice is to be creative with the picture-taking process. Udemy courses can help you learn how to take amazing pictures on a budget to get the most out of your article.

Writing the Article

Now that you know what to ask and what to include with the interview, it is important to learn how to tie all these things together into an article. The first step is to include at least one paragraph before and after the interview. The beginning paragraph should explain who the person is that you are interviewing—what they do, where they live, and why they are being interviewed. You can include one or two quotes from the interviewee. When using direct quotes, you must include the quotations (“ ”).

Next, you must go through all of the questions and answers to decide where to place them in the interview. Just because you asked question one first, doesn’t mean you need to place that in the top spot. Include a few questions that really stand out as exceptional. Then include a few that are more normal responses and then end with a few more exceptional questions. This way, your reader never gets bored.

It is okay to change around the questions and answers, but remember –  it is never okay to change the response or the implications. This means you cannot edit their response or remove it from its context. You must include the answer just as it was given by the interviewee. If needed, you can record the interview so that you can go back and refer to it to ensure the answers are completely as given. When in doubt, ask the interviewee to approve a change you made.

You should also note that you are not required to use every question. With any type of article or blog, there will probably be a specific word count that you shouldn’t go over. However, be sure that you don’t remove any important questions or comments or any that will remove context from another question or comment.

Structure of the Article

Most interview writers think they have to stay with a strict structure and generally put the picture at the top and include a Q and A type of questionnaire. However, this format isn’t set in stone, and you can change things around any way you’d like.

For example, write about half of the article and then place the picture, wrapping the text around it in a fashion that you like, and that looks good. This is a great way to incorporate the picture into the piece instead of just tacking it on to the top or bottom.

You may also consider writing each question and answer in the form of a paragraph. If you have many questions that pertain to the same thing, they can be grouped using headings. For example, if you asked the interviewee what three things he would buy if he won the lottery and why and his answer was: I would donate some to charity because I like helping people, I would buy a new car, and I would give some to my mom…. Then you can ask the interviewee which charity he would donate to; if his answer as the American Heart Association in memory of his father who died of a heart attack too early in life, you would write it like this:

“When asked what three things So-and-So would do if he won the lottery, he mentioned he would buy himself a new car, give some to his mother to help her with financial hardships, and would donate to charity. When asked which charity he would donate to, So-and-So mentioned the American Heart Association, because his father passed away from a heart attack at an early age.”

You will have used the answer provided without needing any direct quotes, which can work really well. You can also do the above example type along with the Q and A approach to liven things up and make it less robotic.

You may also want to include parenthetical notes. If you ask a question which makes the interviewee laugh, you can include that in the answer, which helps the reader “see” what happened during the interview and give the interviewee emotion, which can be difficult with the written word.

For example, if you asked the interviewee why he fell off the roof of his home and he laughs and answers that he was trying to get his cat down, you would include the laugh like this:

Question: Why did you fall of the roof of your home?

Interviewee’s Name [laughing]: I was trying to get my cat down!

You can also use the brackets in the middle of the answer if this is where the laughter or other emotion was used in the interview. This is why recording the interview can be more helpful.

Whether you want to work on publishing your article at news outlets or blogs, your interview will be top notch with a little help from Udemy. They have a wide range of courses from Technical Writing Made Easy to specialized writing technique courses so be sure to check them out and really boost your writing skills.