Tips of the trainer - INTERVIEWING STYLES - Press Gazette

Tips of the trainer - INTERVIEWING STYLES


As Andrew Gilligan will tell you, interviewing can be a tricky process.

There are several different types of interview:

1. A face-to-face interview – usually with one person, either in your office or in their office or home, or at some other location decided by mutual agreement.

2. A telephone interview – sadly, far too common these days.

3. A group interview – where you interview several people at the same time about the same issue.

4. A press conference – where several journalists quiz one or several people together.

5. A remote interview – where questions are submitted in writing and the answers are received in writing.

These are often done by e-mail and are useful when establishing facts and getting general quotes. But, like a phone interview, they can be an excuse for lazy journalism and are rarely likely to probe beneath the surface.


If someone is reluctant to speak, be nice.

Do not be too pushy. Most people become defensive under pressure. A less direct approach is often better. Prepare your argument and what you’re going to say in advance. Offer them a reason why they should talk to you:

1. A favour, an incentive – “The publicity may help your cause…”

2. Be persuasive – appeal to their sense of injustice.

3. Be a good listener – so many journalists make the mistake of interrupting and sometimes miss good quotes.

4. Tell your story – this can help them produce theirs. It’s all about establishing a bond of trust.

5. Ask non-threatening questions first.

It’s not a good idea to ask the vicar about his affair with the choirboy as soon as you enter the room. Leave the tough questions until later on, perhaps after the interview.


1. Read your notes back as soon as possible – in the car or on the train.

2.Mark good angles and transcribe difficult words before you forget what they were.

3. Enter the person’s name and details in your contact book for future reference – even if you think it’s unlikely you will speak to them again.

4.Write up the story as soon as you can, while it’s fresh in your memory.

5. Keep your promises – if you told the person you would drop round a copy of the paper, make sure you do. Never promise what you cannot deliver.

6.Make sure you return photos, etc, quickly – keep them safe and make sure they are undamaged during the production process. A bereaved person will never forgive you if you lose or damage a photo of their loved one.

7. Keep in touch – they might be a useful contact in the future.

Cleland Thom runs Journalism Training Services ( He can be contacted at

by Cleland Thom