Thursday, January 5, 2012

Interviews Part One: Choosing Your Victims, I Mean Interviewees

Picking the perfect interview subject takes your article to a higher level.
Image by vichie81

One of my favorite research resources for articles is an expert interview.  An interview from someone who really knows their stuff doesn't just provide soundbites for the article, it can often provide thought-provoking extras and maybe even send the article off on a completely new tangent.  Without the interview, we might be just rehashing the same old research someone else already conducted, providing no new viewpoints or information.

I like to reach for the top when I go after an interview.  I want to get the most influential person I can, the person who is making the policies and who has the power to create change.  I want people who are working on the subject every day, from every angle.  I want people opposing viewpoints, I want controversy.

Sometimes I have a vague idea for an article and I conduct an interview just to see what ideas pop up.  I got a great article out of an interview I conducted with my son's Boy Scout leader.  It turned into my first feature story, and I'm very proud of it.

This time around, I have a very specific idea of where I want to go.  I'm writing an article about advocating for kids on the autism spectrum.  I know from my own experience and from other moms I talk to that dealing with the schools is difficult.  Even though we are supposed to be on the same team, it often feels like we aren't.  I work with a professional advocate to navigate the system.

When picking my interview subjects, I decided to snag the exact people who are at odds with each other.  I want the director of special education for the school district and the director of the advocacy program.  Two rivals, facing off.  I'm looking forward to hearing what each one has to say, where their opinions are the same, and where they differ.  Finding the common ground is going to be the meat of the article, but figuring out why there are differences in the first place might not only make some nice garnish, but could even provide fodder for a second piece.


  1. oooh, good one... rivals... I want to hear how this comes out.

    1. I'll keep you posted! The article isn't set to run until November, but my deadline for first draft is March.