Week 4: Interviewing techniques, plus notes on marks, your second assignment and our next Google Hangout

If you haven’t read the course essentials post, which contains a link to the course outline as well as important course and time management information, please do so before reading this post. Also, a reminder that your second assignment, your research and pre-interview plan, is due by 5 pm EST on Monday, July 8, as a post on your individual blog.

This week’s materials:
Asking Questions: Techniques for Semistructured Interviews (Leech, 2002)
The Art of the Interview (Friedman, 2013)
What Journalists Need to Know About Interviewing for Video (Frechette, 2013)  

conversational competence (2015)

This week’s readings and video focus on fostering fruitful conversations with subjects in social sciences research, feature reporting and radio and video interviews. Building trust and empathy, as we learned last week, are at the core of great interviews but you also need to do your homework. This TEDx Talk from radio journalist Celeste Headlee offers strategies for better conversations.

Asking Questions: Techniques for Semistructured Interviews (Leech, 2002)
In her journal article for Political Science and Politics, Beth L. Leech uses her experiences as a journalist and as an anthropological researcher to break down two different approaches to interviews. She categorizes the “journalistic style” as one that tries to verbally pin the respondent down by appearing to know everything already. By contrast, the ethnographic style of interviewing “instead tries to enter into the world of the respondent by appearing to know very little.” While they diverge in many ways, in the hands of a strong feature writer, both styles can be quite complementary.

The Art of the Interview (Friedman, 2013)
This Columbia Journalism Review article by Ann Friedman offers great tips for feature interviews, emphasizing the importance of doing your research ahead of time but being flexible enough to engage your subject in meaningful conversation. She also addresses the importance of allowing for silences and using them to your advantage. If you’d like check out more of Friedman’s writing, subscribe to her freemium newsletter here.

What Journalists Need to Know About Interviewing for Video (Frechette, 2013)  
Video interviews require you to pay attention to more than just the conversation you’re having with your subject. In this piece for Poynter, Casey Frechette goes into great detail aobut the three phases of video interviews: (1) Prepping the interview and planning logistics; (2) Setting up the location for optimal visuals; (3) Recording and conducting the interview.


First assignment marks: You’ll receive your marks on the digital feature critique assignment via email by Friday, July 5.

Second assignment: Your Research and Pre-Interview Plan is due, as a post on your individual blog, by July 8 at 5 pm EST.  You will be submitting a 1,200-1,500-word early-stage proposal for how you will embark on research and preliminary interviews for your Major Research Project. Please organize your proposal into the following categories and include a working bibliography and source list (not part of word count):

  • Project overview
  • Story form and justification
  • Primary and secondary sources
  • Human sources
  • Access to principal sources
  • Reporting and production schedule

Reminder: Individual blogs are set to public by default. To set your blog to Private, please follow these instructions:

  • From the Dashboard for your site, go to the left sidebar menu and click on Settings
  • Choose Reading and look for the section titled “Site Visibility”
  • In the first section of options, click “Discourage Search engines” 
  • In the next set of options, choose “Visible only to registered users of this network”

Please email Lindsay Hanna (lindsay.hanna@ryerson.ca) if you have any questions.


Online office hours: Our next Google Hangout is scheduled for Monday, July 8 from 8-9 pm EST. You will receive a Google invite for the video chat and can click on the link during that time to ask questions or discuss any issues related to your MRP. Joining the Google Hangout is not mandatory and of course, if you have any questions, please drop me an email at asmaa.malik@ryerson.ca.

Have a great week!