Their first interviews

One of the most important skills we teach in Writing for Mass Communication is interviewing. Being an effective interviewer is vital for any media career — from a reporter interviewing a source for a story to an advertising account executive meeting with a client to discuss an ad campaign.

For the students in Writing for Mass Communication, only about a fourth have conducted an interview. They’ve been interviewed for jobs or scholarships. But they’ve not been the one to develop the questions, conduct the interview, and then write a story based on the information they have collected.

A series of assignments prepares them for conducting interviews.

– Read a chapter in the textbook about interviewing.

– Listen to an audio recording of writer William Zinsser talking about non-fiction writing techniques and the importance of interviewing people.

– Analyze newspaper stories to see how direct quotes and paraphrases are used to help tell the story.

– Watch a 15-minute audio and photo presentation on the course CD-ROM that follows a former MMC 2100 student who was conducting the interview for Reporting (the next course after MMC 2100).

– Watch a 20-minute recorded interview that I conduct, take notes and then write a story based on that interview. The interview is on the course CD-ROM, and they can stop and replay sections of the interview to check notes and quotes.

– Interview a classmate and write a personality profile. For most students in the course, this is the first interview they’ve ever conducted. This assignment is a fun learning experience for the students and for the lab instructors. During the week of this assignment, I’ll spot students, such as the students in the photo, conducting their interviews.

– Listen and take notes during a live interview in lecture. This semester, I interviewed Joni Rollen, a program assistant with the City of Gainesville’s recycling program.

– Identify two sources for a story about recycling and interview them. This is the first time for most students that they have interviewed someone they don’t know.

Step by step, they have started developing and practicing interviewing skills.

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