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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Question (your) Authority

As we examine the structure of a good interview, the

inevitable issue of how you organize your encounter has to

be faced.  This is always a delicate trade off between an

overly organized and formal arrangement and an interview

that simply wanders all over the place.  Of course, how you

structure your interview depends heavily on whether or not

the interview will be a part of a larger, edited piece or a

stand alone feature.  Of course, in either case, your

audience is the ultimate focus of your interview, but in the

interview that will be part of a large piece, you have

probably chosen your subject for a specific point of view or

opinion, and in a sense, your interview has to be a bit more

structured in order to get your subject to comment on an

aspect of your larger story.  You can’t quite tell them what

you want them to say, but you do know where you want the

interview to go, and you don’t want to waste a lot of tape

getting there.

The reality is that you will undoubtedly need to ask some

warm-up questions to both relax your guest and get them in

the general frame of mind of what your story is about.  In

this situation, what you really want is multiple versions of

the same take, or the same question, with variations.  It

may be only one or two questions, asked over and over,

trying to keep them fresh and unusual.  This will give the

editor of the piece a range of choices to use for the final

piece.  As an interviewer, you need to remain spontaneous

sounding, but at the same time really exploring the one or

two points you need for your final piece.

The feature interview is on one hand harder - you have a

bigger chunk of time to kill - and easier, since it is not

so important that you get some specific answer, but rather

give your audience a deeper understanding of the person you

are interviewing.

In your feature interview, it is wise to arrange your

questions in order of most important to least important, so

that if your interview is cut in length, you will have the

most important questions answered up front.  This doesn’t

mean that the last of the questions should be dull or

insipid, just the softer, more ‘touchy-feely’ questions

which aren’t so reliant on facts.

The one exception to this rule of most important to least

important arrangement of questions is when your feature

interview unrolls in multiple parts, divided by breaks.  In

this case, save your second (and third, if necessary) most

important question to tease when you come back from the

break.  In this way, you can invite your audience to remain

with you for good, juicy questions when you return.  It

could sound something like this:  “when we come back, writer

Marty Link will talk about his childhood in West Virginia

and the experience that changed his life...we’ll be right


You will want to save important questions to tease coming

back from those breaks - usually what you might consider

your second, third, or subsequently more important


The bottom line is that while you want any interview to

sound fresh and unrehearsed, you may have different needs

for each interview.  Think it through in advance and you

(and your editor!) will be happier for the effort.

You know the drill.  Breathe deeply...