In an interview, let your questions guide the conversation

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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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.

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