Think of an interview as a canoe. The source should do all the hard work--the paddling--of answering the questions. As the interviewer, you should do the steering. Different kinds of questions can guide the conversation in different ways.

  • Ask open-ended questions when possible. These are helpful for people who've never been interviewed before.
  • Closed-ended questions (that can be answered with a "yes" or "no") are good when you need an unequivocal answer to a specific question. Keep in mind that they don't allow the person to expand on the topic.
  • Double-barreled questions (asking more than one question at a time) confuse the source. These also let the person decide which question to answer.
  • Front-loaded questions have a long statement at the beginning with a question tucked at the end. These kinds of questions slow the pace of your interview.
  • Statements masquerading as questions sound like editorializing. They can cause the person to suspect you may be fishing for a quote and they may mistrust you.

Taken from 100 Ideas to Make Your Journalism Better, a webinar replay at Poynter NewsU.

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