Lesson 6

The Basics of Interviewing (6 Class Periods)

“You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.“ Tom Brokaw

This lesson is designed to teach your students the purpose of the interview and how to conduct a thorough interview, as well as the technical aspects of switching cameras.

The Purpose of an Interview

Investigate and confirm facts surrounding a news story, event or issue
Add a “human element” to the story that wouldn’t be possible if you were just relying on purely factual information and sources

Offer different view points from interviewees

Obtain the most accurate facts and opinions to make the story interesting, informative and engaging to your viewers

Conducting the Interview

Choose your interviewee wisely. Always go with the subject with the most experience or first-hand knowledge of the story or topic.

Before the interview, prepare. Research information on your interviewee, as well as on the topic of the story.

Listen, listen, listen.

Be prepared to ask questions you weren’t intending to ask (for example, if the interviewee adds an unexpected tidbit to a question you originally asked, be prepared to follow-up that tidbit with a question).

Use follow-up questions based on the interviewee’s answer.

Keep questions short and simple.

Remember, you are after interesting sound bites for the broadcast, look for short, focused statements that will benefit and enhance the story.

Don’t settle for a “yes” or “no” answer, ask the interviewee to expand or rephrase the question.

Don’t ever hesitate to ask for more clarification if you don’t understand the interviewee’s answer.

Always make the interviewee feel comfortable. Before the interview do your homework on what this person likes to do, etc. and try and build a rapport.

Ask for solid and informed opinions and facts. Stay clear of too many questions starting with “How did you feel?” Steer clear of emotional responses as much as possible.

Stay out of the camera person’s way at all times. The focus is on the interviewee, not the reporter. Don’t block the interviewee’s face with a microphone, if using a handheld microphone.

Objectives/Knowledge Retained

An understanding of the purpose of an interview
An understanding of the interviewing process and how to conduct a good interview

Materials/Resources Needed:

Interviewing Tactics and Techniques
Difficult Interviews
Interviewing the FBI Way

One to three cameras (preferably more than one for switching purposes)


Students will divide into groups of three to five (depending on class size and camera availability) and conduct and shoot an interview based on the above guidelines. Using information learned from Lesson 3, Camera Shots and Angles, students should determine which shots and angles will be used during the interview (wide shot, long shot, close-up, etc.). Since this is a live broadcast setting, students will familiarize themselves with switching cameras. (reinforcing an understanding of switching introduced in Lesson 3, Camera Shots and Angles).

Anticipatory Set: (Day 1)

Show students a 10- to 20-minute, one-on-one taped interview (20/20, Today, Dateline are good examples to show)
Have students take notes on what they think are relevant questions, how the interviewer conducted the interview and how the interviewee reacted to the questions asked

After the interview, ask students to take a moment and write if they thought the interviewer was successful in gathering the information needed

Discuss students’ responses as a class

Pass out Handout 6A for take-home review and tell students to come prepared to talk about the purpose of an interview


Students will learn the purpose of an interview, as well as how to conduct an interview

While learning the interviewing process, students will revisit ethics and other factors that may play a part in the interviewing process, as well as discuss whether or not an interview should be conducted at all. Students will also learn the technical aspects of switching cameras, as well as reinforce their understanding in using different camera shots and angles.

Input (Day 2)

Show another 10-20 minute interview (A good one to show would be the Katie Couric/John and Elizabeth Edwards interview (CBS News, 60 Minutes, March 24, 2007)

Ask students to pay careful attention this time to how the interview was conducted and what purpose(s) was/were achieved during the interview process.

Did the interviewer know his/her subject?

Were there a lot of yes/no questions?

Did the interviewer LISTEN to the answers?

Were there a lot of “feel” questions, as in starting the question with “Do you feel…?”

Ask how or if the students would have conducted the interview differently

Have the students write a short paper on the above due next class period

Tell class to be prepared to discuss

Model (Day 3)

Ask for a volunteer from the class

Conduct a short mock interview (this could be about anything, but the simpler, the better – as in “What’s your favorite color and why?” type of question)
BUT throw in some unexpected questions, for example, “There are a lot of people that would disagree that green should even be a favorite color. How would you address this?”

Be sure to model your questions from Handout Lesson 6

After the interview, replay to the class
Were there any deviations from the interviewing process?
How did the interviewer handle the deviations?
How did the interviewer handle the deviations?
Was it a success?

This is a great example to show students what you expect, as well as give students an idea of how interviews could get off track and how to handle these types of situations

Check for Understanding (Day 3)

Tell students to take out the take-home work assigned during the previous class
Ask for volunteers to discuss their paper and responses
(You could also divide students into groups and present their findings as a group)
Students should have an understanding of the interview process, how to conduct an interview and the different situations that may come up during the interview process
(The paper could be turned in and used as a grade)

Guided Practice (Days 4 and 5)

Students will divide into groups of three to five (depending on class size and camera availability)
Students will choose an interviewer, interviewee and camera operator from the group
Students will develop interview questions surrounding the school mascot and how it represents their school
Students will also discuss which camera shots/angles and lighting they will use during the interview
Students will learn to switch cameras using the video switcher
Students shoot the interview

Closure (Day 6)

Students will review the videos and critique each group on the “Handout 6” criteria
Students can either discuss this as a class or turn in the critiques to the teacher

Independent Practice/Enrichment

Have students choose a relevant topic on today’s news channels and ask them to write down who they would interview for the story and what questions they would ask. Instruct them to really take another look at the story they are covering and add a fresh perspective using thoughtful interviewees and asking pertinent questions.

Integration into live broadcast

As the role of reporter and/or anchor, good interviewing techniques will play a very important role on how engaging, factual and entertaining the story is. The interviewing techniques will be utilized for each broadcast, resulting over time into more polished, solid interviews.


National Educational Standards Met

Language Arts, Standard 1: Read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information, to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace, and for personal fulfillment.
Language Arts, Standard 4: Adjust their use of spoken, written and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
Language Arts, Standard 7: Conducts research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. Gather, evaluate and synthesize data from a variety of sources to communicate discoveries in ways that suit purpose and audience.
Language Arts, Standard 8: Use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
Civics, Standard 5: Citizen responsibilities, citizen rights
Technology, Standard 4: Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
Technology, Standard 5: Uses technology to locate, evaluate and collect information from a variety of sources.
Technology, Standard 6: Uses technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions; employs technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.


Additional MaterialResources and suggested reading