You mean, talk to them?

Students often are almost stunned when we tell them that we expect them to be interviewing people in person or on the phone.

Today’s college students are in seemingly constant communication. Text messaging, talking on their cell phones, instant messaging, or contacting “friends” through Facebook.

But when it comes to interviewing sources f2f (face to face), some of our students are resistant and anxious.

“Can’t I just e-mail the questions and let them e-mail me the answers?” they ask. 

“No,” we tell them. “We want you to learn how to conduct an interview in real time with the real person.” 

We explain that the interview process itself is more than getting the answers to their questions.

  • A rapport is developed, even in a short interview.
  • Information is conveyed by tone of voice or expressions.
  • The answer to one question can affect what the reporter asks next.
  • An interview “on location” with a source can become part of the story — such as the student who conducted her interview about manatees with the biologist as they paddled his canoe,
  • Sources and reporters are more spontaneous in a real time interview than in an exchange of e-mails. 

Typically after a couple of interviewing assignments, the students warm up to actually talking with the sources. When asked, most admit that the interviews weren’t as bad as they thought they would be. Most of the students are proud of themselves (and they should be) for finding the appropriate source and then getting the interview. 

Whether one is going to be a reporter or not, knowing how to develop good questions, find the person to answer those questions, and then effectively asking the questions to obtain the needed information are all important life skills. 

And the interviewing experiences can help students in Writing for Mass Communication, many of whom are still shopping for the right major, determine if media work is for them. 

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