Last Friday, Alex Freedman, the I-Team reporter for CBC News: Winnipeg came to speak at Red River College. He was dynamic, interesting, and engaging, and reinforced my goal of becoming a broadcast journalist. He had a lot of very good advice not just for t.v. reporters, but for journalists overall I'd live to share:
1) Never think you're smarter than the person you are interviewing.
You can know it, but don't think it. This mindset will come off as arrogant and will turn the person you are talking to off, which isn't ideal when trying to get information from them.
2) Use the "Columbo" style of questioning.
This technique of questioning is not exactly "playing dumb," but helps you understand the story you are working on better because the interviewee will start to "pat you on the head" and talk more, which is what you want. Some examples of "Columbo" style questioning are:
"Can you explain that to me?"
"How can that be?"
"I thought ___________. Can you explain that to me?"
(all said in a innocent, questioning tone)
3) When interviewing someone, keep your cool, no matter what.
Even if someone just told your that they wasted hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, which has happened to Freedman, keep your cool in your conversation and body language. If the interviewee thinks there is something wrong, they might stop talking, which isn't good for an interview.
4) Don't fill the pregnant pause.
Did you get a little anxious there? Don't fill the silence when someone is talking. When they get quiet, just stand back and let them be the first ones to talk. When someone is silent, that often means they are thinking, and will have something interesting to say when they do speak.
5) Don't be aggressive, be assertive.
This may seem cliche, and I don't believe Freedman said this exact phrase, but it is what I got from his talk. Intimidating people will usually not garner interviews. However, letting someone know that you're going to do the interview with out without them, showing them that giving an interview would be beneficial to them, is a good way to get someone to speak to you. Freedman also suggested reminding elected officials that it is their duty to talk to you is a good way to secure your interview.
6) Pictures, sounds, and quotes are the heart of your story and your words are just the glue.
Freedman told us about a news story that was only pictures and sound, and explained why it was "gold." People care most about the story you are telling as a journalist, not you. So remember, the words that you write are the least important thing to a story. Make sure you have the right pictures, sounds, and quotes (often filled with human emotion) to tell your story effectively.
Freedman's overall advice was to practice, practice, practice. Whether it be FIPPA requests or interviews, I understood even better after that being a journalist is a craft that needs to be worked on and nurtured, which I am very excited to do.