Rules of the Road
We are spending a couple of weeks examining the process of
conducting interviews, the central building block of any broadcast
journalist. This week, we start looking at the guidelines
This first rule is almost too dumb to mention, but nonetheless,
is overlooked more often than it is observed:
You should know your subject better than anyone else on the
planet. The only limits to the research you should do on your
subject are time. The number of sources you can refer to to
learn more about your subject are nearly limitless.
Of course, at one level, this is simply a recapitulation
of what every journalist should do, but in our case, the effects
of knowing your subject well are multiple.
First, the factual basis of your interview will be without
question. If you are the local resident expert on your subject,
you not only show respect for the subject, you also show respect
for your audience.
More important, however, is that there are a number of psychological
benefits of getting inside your subjects
head. You cannot calculate the benefits of knowing some small
fact, some relationship, some experience your subject had,
and how that knowledge will affect your approach to your subject.
TV talk-show host Larry King likes to claim that he does no
homework prior to conducting his interviews; he says it allows
him to come at his subjects with an open mind.
This may be fine for Larry King, but you should not count
on this approach. You need to know the telling realities that
make up the life of your subject, and weave them into your
understanding of that subject.
Next week: setting the ground rules. Keep breathing!