You have your goal, your target has theirs.
How do you plow through this battleground to get what you need for your story?
Get ready as Kathy Tomlinson, an investigative journalist with the Globe and Mail, shares her tips and techniques — for both print and broadcast reporters.
"The Tough Interview" is about to start!
"If you're talking to someone you think won't be forthcoming, don't approach them hard-line way." Approach them as you would a "friendly" interview.
"If you're interviewing someone and you're looking to confirm something you already know, keep your cards close to you."
"If I had said, "I heard your boss murdered someone, what do you have to say about that?", the answer would have been *click*. Instead, I said, "So I heard there's been a dispute...what are your thoughts on that?"
Tell your interviewee that you want to hear their side, that you want to get to the truth.
"Even with the friendly interview, if you push them a little bit you will get a better sound bite. Since they're friendly, they're less likely to run away. And if they do--you have to wonder if you have the whole story."
Audience Question: What do you think of prepared questions?
Kathy's response: Scripted questions put you out of the moment. If you think too much about your next question, you miss what's going on in the conversation. Instead, keep in mind specific points you want to address.
"I think politicians are fair game. Nowadays I feel like we're too polite. I remember when we would camp in the hallways until they left their office. Now we email their PR person!"
If you can, try to talk the person and avoid the PR maze. That way you actually connect. Oftentimes, your interviewee will be more forthcoming.
"I've gotten a lot of angry emails, but I don't care. I'm still polite, but I'm accountable to my publication. I'm accountable to the public. I'm not accountable to the PR person. Their job is to stonewall us, and it's our job to get around it."
"There's a completely different approach towards an interviewee you're trying to get in the tent or show sympathy towards. I'll say on the phone, 'Hey, let's just talk. I'm not gonna record anything or write anything down...' "
"Listen, don't talk. I've had to bite my tongue a lot. Even if there's an uncomfortable silence. As soon as you talk, they will reframe their reply in response. If they don't answer a question, ask it again."
Ask simple questions. Ask open-ended questions. And ask one question at a time.
If you know something is a lie, tell them that. Say "we know that isn't true. We can report it as such, or you can take this opportunity to set the record straight."
If you're interviewing someone who is turning on you--say, "Hey, I'm just a reporter. I'm just try to get the facts straight."
A question on Kathy's arsenal: "What bugs you the most about this?"
What other questions are in Kathy's pocket?
- What do you mean? (Good when faced with gobbbeldy gook.)
- How can you justify that?
Does it change things when you're interviewing someone who has enough money to sue you?
Well, Kathy's been through it. It doesn't faze her. "I approach every interview as if I'm gonna get sued."
Compare American and Canadian interviews.
"God I love America. They love to talk! When we do streeters, people come up and ask 'Whatta we talkin' about?' " I wish Canadians were more like that. I think we take our democracy and freedom of speech for granted."
"If people ask me if I'm recording, I'll say team. But otherwise I won't say. You're a reporter and they know what's up. It's like taking notes--it's for accuracy."
"Off the record is terrible. If you can, avoid it. I've only used it if I thought it could lead me to further places to look."
That wraps The Tough Interview! Thank you Kathy Tomlinson. #CAJ16invu