One of the toughest and most intimidating parts of the sports writing process – especially for a new writer – can be the interview.
How do you get the interview you want? Who do you contact in order to get this interview? What questions are okay to ask in this interview? Do you conduct interviews in person, on the phone or via email?
These are all viable questions to ask yourself while doing preparations for a story interview
There are numerous ways to go about getting the interview you need to write the best quality story.
Below I have outlined some interview tips that can be used by any sports reporter; from the grizzled veteran to someone just starting out.
Interview Tips For Any Sports Reporter
Depending on the athlete and their popularity, you may just be able to find a social media account (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and contact them personally. Some athletes are very open to interviews and will gladly talk to you, especially if it gives them some notoriety and attention.
Other athletes may not be open to an interview without the permission of their coach, agent or their academic institution. Make sure you ask them if they require this before you set up the interview. Or you can also go direct to their coach, agent or institution with a request for an interview. The last thing you want to do is get a player in trouble for not checking their code of conduct when it comes to interviews.
Higher scale athletes have more of a celebrity to their image, so they normally require that you contact their team’s PR division, team press manager or agent. Do not try and go behind these people. They are there for a reason and they most likely get hundreds of requests a month for interviews. Let them decide if the media outlet you work for is worth the interview time and go from there.
If you don’t get the interview you want, don’t let it ruin your story, there are always other options out there for stories and you can’t always get what you want in the media industry. You normally have to work with what you can get.
Decide On An Interview Type
Depending on the kind of story you are writing and what you plan on doing with the information taken from the interview, you must decide on what kind of interview you want to set up.
If you’re writing a cover story or a large feature, it may be beneficial to set up an in-person interview with an athlete where you can “schmooze” them and treat them like the star that they are.
In most cases, however, a phone interview with someone will suffice. This allows you to hear every word they have to say, hear the tone of their voice and ask them questions freely and openly. It also allows you and your interview subject to set up a time that works best for your schedules without the hassle of making a food reservation (which contains a bill you have to pay for) or doing any kind of traveling (which also costs you or your media outlet).
Script Your Questions
Once you have the interview set-up and ready to go, make sure you script questions that will give you the answers you need for your story. Asking someone their birthplace and age when this information is easily accessible through a few seconds of Google searches isn’t a valuable way of utilizing interview time. These shallow questions also give the person you are interviewing the impression that you haven’t done any research about them, which can be insulting.
Dive in and get yourself some good quotes, because a good quote can really make a story and be the difference between an outstanding piece and a mediocre story.
Just make sure when you are asking questions that you don’t pry into their personal lives too much. This person is taking the time out of their schedule to help your media outlet – the last thing you want to do is make them angry.
Keep the questions interesting, but exciting. Intriguing, but intelligent.
What About Interview Length?
Make sure you don’t stretch out the interview too long, as your interview subject does have a life to lead. Ask the questions you need to ask, judge how they’re feeling and let it flow. The more an interview seems like a casual conversation the better.
Take a look above at how Sports Networker’s COO Trevor Turnbull lets his interviews flow. This is a great example to follow.
If an interview becomes mechanical, there is a high chance the answers to your questions will become mechanical. This can lead to boring quotes and a waste of an interview.
Don’t Forget Your Manners!
Finally, thank whoever you’ve just interviewed for their time and if you can, let them know when the article will be published so they can inform people themselves and then it’s time to move onto the writing process of your story.
Never get intimidated by the interview process. Use it as an opportunity to increase the caliber of your story, learn something new and educational about your interviewee and have some fun!