Washington Post reporter’s recorder fails at a really bad time

The Washington Post

Joe Heim’s first question to Valerie Jarrett in a Q&A describes a reporter’s nightmare: “What do you think of a reporter who interviews you for 25 minutes, then later finds out his recorder stopped working and asks you to do the interview again?”

Heim, an assignment editor for The Washington Post’s Sunday magazine, told Poynter in a phone call he did the interview a few weeks ago in the Old Executive Office Building. He used his iPhone’s Voice Memos app to record the interview, as he’s done for previous Q&As. He’s not sure why the phone stopped recording; the only thing he suspects is that some sort of alert interrupted his record of the interview.

Check it out, Jarrett uses two phones. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Check it out, Jarrett uses two phones. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After the interview, Jarrett left with her spokesperson, Rachel Racusen, and Heim looked at his phone, which indicated he’d recorded two minutes and two seconds of the interview. Read more


Take chances, Pulitzer-winning reporter urges young journalists


Lane DeGregory, a reporter for Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, wrote an email to a journalism student who asked her: “Is there anything you wish you could tell yourself when you were as inexperienced as us?

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized, it’s okay to not know — it can even be endearing,” DeGregory, who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for this series, writes about boning up for interviews. In another section, she suggests taking risks: Read more

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Lane DeGregory shares tips on developing sources, getting them to open up

Lane DeGregory, a writer for Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, visited the institute recently to speak to high school students about how to find story ideas.

DeGregory, a 2009 Pulitzer-Prize winner for feature writing, shared a few techniques she uses to build rapport with her sources and get them to open up. These tips have served her well when reporting on intimate stories that dive deep into her sources’ personal lives.

Related: How journalists decide whether to interview by phone, email or face-to-face Read more


How journalists can become better interviewers

Every day around the globe, journalists pick up the phone or head out of the newsroom. They meet someone, a stranger or a familiar contact. They take out a notebook or turn on a recording device. And then they perform two simple acts. They ask a question and they listen to the answer. An interview has begun.

Interviewing is the heart of journalism. Yet too few journalists have ever received education or training in this critical skill. “No one ever teaches the journalist how to conduct an interview,” Courtney Herrig, a student at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, complained in a 2007 blog post. For most journalists the only way to learn is on the job, mostly through painful trial and error.

How do you walk up to strangers and ask them questions? Read more


What journalists need to know about interviewing for video

Interviews are a cornerstone of video storytelling because they provide emotion, content and structure, especially in documentary-style stories with little or no narration. Good interviews make for good videos.

Fortunately, most of what you’ve learned about interviewing applies to video. Open-ended questions produce revealing answers. Good follow-up questions create deeper insights. Long and double-barreled questions confuse subjects, or give them an easy out. And good listening can lead to answers with more detail and depth.

As in print, the video interview is a key reporting tool. But it’s also an essential part of the presentation. Footage of subjects discussing their lives, work and expertise is the engine that drives a video story forward.

That’s why it’s important to consider a range of factors when interviewing for video. Read more


USF’s The Oracle bans email interviews, following other student newspapers

The Oracle
The University of South Florida’s student newspaper The Oracle is no longer allowing email interviews, except under rare circumstances. In a letter to readers Monday, Editor-in-Chief Divya Kumar said an increasing number of sources are requesting email interviews in hopes of having more control over their message.

As a newspaper, is it our job to provide readers with the truth, directly from the source — not from the strategically coordinated voices of public relations staff or prescreened e-mail answers.

We don’t think these responses provide our readers with the unvarnished truth, and we will no longer include them in our articles at the expense of compromising the integrity of the information we provide. University departments do not have one, centralized voice, but rather are made up of a multitude of diverse perspectives.

Read more

How journalists can work well with interpreters during interviews

As journalists, our language facility is key to every aspect of our jobs, from reporting to writing. But the second we have to interview subjects who speak a language we don’t understand, we can’t depend on our own skills of observation, interviewing and listening. We’re left to rely on an interpreter.

Working with an interpreter is an essential skill any time you’re reporting in a country with a primary language you don’t speak. It’s also increasingly important in the United States, where the number of foreign-born Americans has been rising since 1970 and is currently around 38 million.

Here are the challenges journalists face when working with interpreters — and tips for dealing with them.

The difficulties of working with an interpreter

1. Accuracy: The biggest and most obvious danger of working with an interpreter is that you’ll get facts wrong or misquote someone — a serious mistake when interviewing anyone, let alone a prominent figure. Read more


10 ways to get traumatized sources to share their stories

When people have been traumatized, they’re often reluctant to talk to the media. There are ways of getting them to open up, though, and of showing them the value in sharing their story.

I talked with five journalists who have interviewed sexual assault victims, people with mental illnesses and parents who have lost children. Here are 10 tips from them.

Give sources a reason to share their story.

Letting sources know that you want to hear their voice and their side of the story can be invaluable.

“Explain to them how that this is their opportunity to have their loved one be more than a statistic — more than another victim of a drunk driver or an abusive parent or gun violence,” said Joyce Garbaciak, contributing news correspondent for WISN-TV. Read more


How journalists decide whether to interview by phone, email or face-to-face

I recently came across a 1997 American Journalism Review story that discussed “the newest communication tool” for journalists: email interviews.

In the years since, stories highlighting email interviews have often placed journalists into two camps: those who think they’re acceptable and those who don’t. But as I’ve learned from my own interviewing methods and from talking with other journalists, the issue’s not that black and white.

With so many tools at their disposal, journalists are taking a blended approach to interviews, one that involves in-person conversations, phone calls, email exchanges, Skype calls, instant messages, text messages and more. The key is figuring out which approach works best for you and the story you’re working on.

For more insight, I talked with five journalists about their preferred interviewing methods and what they’ve learned from experimenting with different forms of communication. Read more


5 tips for journalists who want to do a better job of cultivating sources

Sources are one of a reporter’s biggest assets. If you cover a regular beat, you’ll find yourself talking to some of the same people pretty often. Over time, if you forge relationships with the right sources, you’ll find that they can become the gateway to career-making scoops.

Sources who trust and respect you will come to you first when they hear news on the down-low. But it takes time to earn that trust and respect. Here are five tips that will put you on the right track.

Embrace the small talk

Many reporters aren’t into schmoozing, but a few friendly words can set you apart from reporters who treat sources like information-vending machines instead of human beings. Think of small talk as the mayo in the tuna salad sandwich of your reporting. Read more

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