An interview, like other acts of communication, is a two-way process. The results depend as much on you as on your interviewee. A good interview has the feel of a conversation. Everything you do or say forms part of a planned strategy to get the answers you need.
Prior to the interview, you should thoroughly research the story subject and your source’s connection to it. Research should include documents providing background details that will help in framing the proper questions and seeking detailed explanations. Go where the problems are and plan interviews with a range of people. Otherwise, you risk becoming dependent on a few people or sources far from the scene of action. For instance, you will find out more about how employers prey on employees when you go to a place where farm-workers, industrial workers or others are being evicted. You are unlikely to get such ‘meat’ in the office of an NGO located in a big city. Use data mapping to relate what you find on the ground to policy papers on the subject, or to commitments and budgets. Compare your findings with what has happened in similar places, or even at different times in history. This advance preparation will enable you to ask relevant questions and elicit the information your story needs.
At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg, Mark Schoofs and Cheryl W. Thompson explained how they get people to talk. Watch the video to learn all about the art of interviewing.