Friday, April 06, 2007

In-Person Interviews

I have my first “big” interview coming up with a well known author who I’ll be profiling for an article. Most of my articles up to this point have only required me to track down a few sources for a quote or two over the phone. I haven’t conducted a lot of “in person” interviews. What’s the proper protocol? Do I take hard copy notes? Type on my laptop while we chat? Or can I simply lay a dictaphone on the table and just have a conversation without taking notes (then transcribe the tape recording later in my own time)?

Funny, in the day and age of email and phones, we writers rarely have to leave our offices to conduct nearly all of our work. Amazing, isn't it? I mean, if I'd decided to become a journalist twenty years ago, I'd have to trek to the library to do my research on microfiche!! Which means that in-person interviews are often a thing of rarity. I don't do them much either.

When I do do them, I tend to record the convo and take light notes. I dunno, this seems to help me jog my memory when going back and writing the article, as well as helps me filter through a long recorded conversation, as in, okay, she said this, and then she said that. Which helps when I'm looking for a specific nugget.

But I'm tossing this question back out to readers because I'm certain that there are some folks who do a lot more in-person interviews than I do. So folks, how do you conduct them? Tips for this reader?


MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Definitely record if you can!

I interviewed Brooke Shields over the phone after she had her first daughter, Rowan, and I was sooo freaking nervous about it!

In the end, we just talked about having babies and stuff, and it was like just a regular person.

I also kept her message on my voicemail FOREVER because I was so star-struck (she had called me first to set it up after her publicist contacted her, and it was hilarious--she said, "Hi, um, this is Brooke... Shields." Like I wouldn't know who she was!!!)

OMG, crazy!!! But fun! I did manage to hold back my ONE burning question:


Allison Winn Scotch said...

MM - You crack me up to no end!

Alison Ashley Formento said...

Wow! Another Brooke interviewer here—last fall. We talked bunches about kids, too. A fun, easy interview. She's open and direct which made my job easy.

I've done a number of celeb interviews. I research the person as much as possible beforehand, record the conversation and jot notes (a little notebook will do). Overkill maybe, but it sure helps me remember the overall feel of the interview which I try to incorporate in my profile. Also, have a ton of questions ready, based on that research—some you may never use, but you need to be prepared. Most important—listen. Give them your rapt attention. Sounds like great gig, so have fun!