Interviewing sources is a key part of my process when writing an article. But I understand that a lot of people aren't familiar with being interviewed by a writer and might be a bit nervous. So, here's an outline of what to expect if I've asked to set up an interview with you for one of my articles.
Why do an interview? Can't I just send a written comment?
I understand that everyone is busy and it might be challenging to give up half an hour or so of your time to speak to a journalist. However, being able to have an informal chat with you is really helpful for my articles. It gives me the opportunity to ask questions, clarify points and hear about the topic in your own words.
Often, marine science topics can include a lot of jargon and scientific terms that are too dense for lay audiences (especially when I'm covering a new scientific paper). Having an informal chat allows me to get beyond the jargon and get a bit of 'colour' through quotes and anecdotes in your own words. While written comments can sometimes work, depending on the context, they can often be a bit stiff and hard to weave into the flow of the article.
So that's why I might have asked for a call. But what should you expect?
Wherever possible, I'll give as much notice as I can to set up a call but please be aware that sometimes I might be on a tight deadline and need to speak to someone asap. If this is the case, I might reach out to a few people at once (I'll always try to let you know in my email if I've done this) to see who's immediately available for a chat. If you're slower to respond than someone else, it might mean that I no longer need to interview you but hopefully we'll have the opportunity to speak on another occasion.
This does depend somewhat on the article and the complexity of the piece. If I need an in-depth chat, I could need around 45 minutes of your time but if it's a smaller piece, it might be 15 to 20 minutes. I'll try to let you know what to expect when setting up the call and always do my best not to run over.
But I'll try to let you know what to expect when we set up the interview usually I'll explain a bit about the specific piece. I'm writing to give you some context and help you understand the story that I'm framing. And we'll start with your background and how you came to be involved in this study or project before diving into some of the details.
I usually host these informal chats on Google Meet (unless there is a reason why this isn't possible for you). I'll send a link to my Calendly page so you can book a slot at a time that works for you. Please note I do record these calls for transcription purposes but will check that's OK with you before we start.
I'll have done some research beforehand but I'm not a scientist myself (nor are my readers, usually) so I might ask you to clarify any jargon or scientific terms to make sure I fully understand your responses. As the aim of this interview is to get quotes in your own words (and not in too dry or scientific a format), I may ask you to explain the content of a paper or information you've already sent me in writing. Please don't be frustrated or offended - this is to make sure the quotes I take are accurate, vivid and relatable for readers.
I don't tend to share a list of questions in advance, although I will let you know about what the angle of the piece is going to be. The reason for this is because the conversations are often quite organic. While I'll have certain themes I want to touch on, you might say something that inspires an angle I didn't know about that I want to drill into a bit deeper.
For this reason, sharing a set list of questions beforehand can be distracting and prevent the conversation flowing naturally. The one question you can be sure I'll ask: at the end of our chat, I'll make sure I check if there's anything that I haven't covered that we should have touched on. This is often the richest area of conversation so please do be honest if I haven't asked about an important topic!
Once I've done the interview, I'll write up the piece and it will go through edits with the publication I'm writing it for. I'm not able to share the draft for approval in advance as this is an editorial opportunity. I don't always know the exact publication date until the piece is out but I'll do my best to keep you updated and share the article when it has been published.
And if you have anything coming up in the pipeline that might inspire a future article, please do let me know during our chat (or follow up with an email later). I'm always scouting for story ideas.
If I've interviewed you for an article, tank you so much for the time. I really do appreciate people taking their time out of their busy day to speak to me. It really does help me frame my articles in the best possible way.
I hope this outline gave you a good idea of what to expect. And hopefully we'll have the opportunity to chat very soon!