One of my friends is in the radio business in North Carolina. He recently interviewed Bob Schieffer, the anchor of CBS’s “Face the Nation” about his life and work in the news business. Schieffer is one of the best interviewers in the broadcast world.
I was driving from Point A to Point B, listening to the interview, and I nearly drove off the road when the topic turned to the nature of interviews.
Interviewer: What makes a really great interview?
”What you have to do is be prepared. People come to interview me and there’s nothing I appreciate more than someone who has done a little work before they ask me questions. [When I’m interviewing someone] I try to know what the subject is about, but the secret to interviewing is not the questions you ask, it is listening to what a person says. That’s where you get the good information.
The purpose of an interview in my mind is still to elicit information… to find out what the person you’re interviewing thinks about something. You want to find out why they did what they did. I generally start with the obvious questions. Any time I’ve been scooped on a story or come away from an interview missing the point is when I assumed I knew the answer the person would give. You just never, ever, do that. A lot of young reporters are afraid to ask obvious questions for fear people will think, “Well, my goodness, he’s sure stupid, he doesn’t know anything.’
And people don’t think that. You have to ask obvious questions… You have to find out what the person you’re interviewing really thinks about something, and the only way you can do that is to ask the questions.”
Good point! We can follow this lead!