The effective interviewer knows what he or she wants from an interview. That’s what John Brady, author of “The Craft of Interviewing,” thinks. The interviewer is like a chess player, he says, never moving a piece or asking a question without a greater purpose.

Here’s what to ask yourself at the outset of reporting:

  • What do I want to know?
  • What does my audience need to know?
  • Who is most likely to give me what I need?
  • Who is closest to the action or issue — the city councilwoman or the neighborhood resident, the police spokeswoman or the crime victim’s spouse?

Every story idea generates its own set of interviewing possibilities. Try an approach Don Murray used in his long career as a reporter and magazine writer: In the front of your notebook, write a list of the five or six questions that your audience would ask about your story and number the questions in the order that your audience would ask them.

Taken from The Interview, a self-directed course by Poynter affiliate Chip Scanlan at Poynter NewsU.

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