Every journalist should come well prepared for an interview. While it's important to do your research and come up with specific questions for your source, memorizing a number of general questions come in handy to gather background information and to receive material you may not have known to ask about. General questions can also come in handy if your interview subject is not responding well to your other inquiries or if you run out of specific things to discuss.
Tell Me About Yourself and Explain Your Job
Even if you've done your research and know exactly what your source does for a living, letting her explain it will provide you with quotes and give you time to think about follow-up questions. While a source's bio can often be found online, you might learn something new from asking this question. Letting your source talk about herself also makes for an easier transition to more difficult questions.
What's the Latest Happening in Your Field?
As a journalist, it's important to find out what information your source has that's newsworthy. If interviewing an expert in a field of study, he will know off the top of his head any new information that could become the headline of your story. Always find out if a newsworthy angle exists, and follow up by asking your source to explain the significance of the new information. And follow up on any answer that's interesting and could lead in new directions.
Anything Important I Might Have Missed?
Not every interview will go as smoothly as you planned. There may be questions you never thought of asking that could provide crucial information for your story. As your source is an expert on the topic, she will be able to fill in the gaps you didn't realize existed. Asking this question is also beneficial when you run out of things to say, and it could be the gateway to a range of topics that otherwise are left unexplored.
Who Else Should I Talk to?
Never leave without asking who else you should interview. Your source might have contacts who can elaborate on the subject and have different insights. Even if you think you have all the information you need, it's always a good idea to see what else you can gather. You're better off with too many quotes than not enough, and it's always possible you'll uncover something new and exciting in your next interview.
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