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Interviewing masterclass. Tips and techniques

Interviewing is the mainstay of good journalism. Simon Hattenstone, a master in the art  at The Guardian, gave a masterclass for the UK Press Gazette. Here are his top tips…

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Above: Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian

  • Be nosy. Really nosy. Shamelessly nosy.
  • Read everything about your subject.
  • Ask your friends what they would like to know about the person.
  • Ask hard questions in the middle. Traditionally, journalists ask these at the end but Hattenstone says this is cowardly. He suggests it doesn’t leave enough time to rebuild the relationships. But never ask at the beginning because they might walk out.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen.
  • Observe. He once asked about a scar on an actor’s face and it led to a story he had never talked about.
  • Repeatedly check your tape recorder.
  • Don’t worry if there’s tension or if you are getting on badly with your subject. You are not there to make friends.
  • Transcribe accurately. The thing that gives an interview individuality is the  subject’s voice. Everyone speaks in a unique way. Don’t lose or neuter it.
  • Use a tape recorder so you can observe your subject and listen properly.
  • Make the write up come alive with good writing that has a rhythm. “Good interviews, like good writing in general, is all to do with rhythm.”