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Jul 31
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Interviewing Musts

When performing an interview, there are a few basic rules you need to remember — whether it be for legal reasons, general courtesy, or credibility. 

Permission. You have to ask permission to interview someone. You must ask if you can disclose information like their name, and ask if you can quote them. You also must tell them where this information will be published. In addition, if you are going to record this interview on a device, or if you want to take their picture, you have to ask permission for both. 

Tell. You have to tell them what you are writing about in full. If your article is about people who are against GMOs in Vermont, you cannot tell them your article is just about GMOs. You need to let them know everything they are getting into. You should also tell them who you are, your role, and who you are associated with. 

Basic Info. The basic information you want to get about the person you are interviewing is their name, age, hometown, and their profession (if applicable). This information will round out the person you are interviewing in a story, and will make your information more credible. 

Word for word. You want to make sure you get their quotes as exact as possible. When writing your piece, you can delete extraneous terms such as "um," "like," and "huh" that drag the story down. You can even fix their grammar a touch if their sentence is completely incomprehensible. But you do not want to misquote them. Not only are they misrepresented, but you could get in trouble for it. Recording your interview can help with accuracy. 

Off the record. If someone asks you not to include a piece of information they just said, you have to respect their wishes. Being respectful of the person you are speaking to is everything. If they want to end the interview, you have to respect that request as well. 

Digital media. If you want to have photos, for, say, an article, you need to follow a few photojournalism rules. If you have less than five people in a photo, you have to get the name, age, and hometown of each individual and mention it in a caption. You also cannot alter the photo. Meaning, you cannot use Photoshop to make someone's nose smaller, or to cast one person in bad light. You can only make edits such as making the photo black and white, or making the photo brighter or darker to enhance the quality. 

Audio. Remember, you have to ask permission to record someone. It is also polite to have your recorder out in the open instead of a place like your pocket, so that they feel more comfortable. Note: test your audio recording device before you start the interview to make sure it works, and so that you are practiced enough in using it that you don't waste your interviewee's time. 

Thanks. Always thank the person you have interviewed. Also, exchange contact information with them. That way, you can ask them a follow up question or they can send you more information. 

Give them a copy. It's always courteous to send a copy of the piece you wrote containing your interview to the interviewee. In the very least, tell them where they can find the writing. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

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